When the sentient Room had first escaped from the laboratory facility where it had been created, it was frightened and alone, the only thing of its kind in a strange world it had no understanding of. It cowered in lowly alleys not even sure if it really wanted to be alive. The types of alleys it cowered in were sometimes populated by drug addicts and several times they entered the Room and used it to get wasted. The Room was just glad to have any kind of company at all, so it allowed it.
Then one day, a mousy little woman with huge glasses was walking by, when she glanced at the Room, slowed, stopped and with her head slightly tilted just stood there staring sideways at the Room for several minutes. The she calmly walked up to it, stroked its door gently, and asked if she could come in. Once inside she assumed the lotus position, and within about 15 minutes they were conversing.
She changed the Room’s up until then miserable life. She would stop by a few times a week to talk to it and after a few weeks introduced it to two odd but interesting men she knew who were looking for a theater of sorts. The Room learned how to be a theater and over time learned how to be a lot of things. But it always credited Agatha with picking it up when it was down and teaching it that living could in fact be a great thing.
So if anyone has ever asked whether the Room would take a bullet for Agatha, the answer is: Yes. Yes it would.
The Room materialized around Agatha and Pepper just as the Uncle fired. He was shocked to suddenly find a wall in front of him. The bullet punched a hole in the wall but lost enough momentum to reach the dog. The Uncle kept firing. His henchmen joined in. The Room, who had never actually tried to materialize anywhere as exposed as this before, was taking a lot of hits and chunks of its walls were flying off. It was desperate, and so it did the only thing it could think of, it did a blind jump into the library.
The Room popped out of the street and a second later a huge boom came from inside the library, were stacks of book were blown asunder from the physical space they had been occupying up until this point. It wasn’t hard for the Uncle to figure out what had happened and he yelled for his men to storm the library.
They began to ran up the steps to the library’s front door when a large white bird swooped down out of the air and landed just in front of the door. A little mouse climbed off of its back and assessed the situation.
“Fuck you, you dickless fucks!” the mouse cried and then scampered under the library’s front door. The albatross flew up and away and a moment later a little voice from inside the library screamed “Wards up!”
And that was that. The Uncle still tried to storm the library but it was useless. He eventually gave up and stormed off, leaving orders that the library was to be watched around the clock. He went home to have a few drinks, celebrate getting the object, getting to hurt that stupid dog, getting to kick Agatha, and afterwards went to have a long talk with his Warlock about how to storm a warded library.
The door to the Room opened and Sam the mouse stepped inside. Agatha lay in a curled up, crumpled pile and before her stood a dog her had never met. The dog had obviously had the hell beaten out of it and yet it stood unwavering over Agatha, willing to protect her to the end.
“Shhh. It’s okay, girl,” Sam said to the dog. “Everything’s okay now. You’re among friends.”
“Sam,” Agatha moaned weakly, not even opening her eyes.
“Agatha!” Sam cried. “Are you okay?”
“No,” she whimpered.
“Can i help?”
“What do you need?”
“What i need,” replied Agatha, grimacing as she tried to roll over onto her knees, “Is to kill that pot bellied fucktard.” She finally opened her eyes and looked at Sam. “Very. Very. Painfully.”
As discussed previously, magic is not so good in fast action situations. Where it is good is in two ways. One: Healing. Agatha’s first order of business, before she even thought about tending to her own injuries, was to get Pepper bandaged and prepare as many healing spells as she could. She was determined to bring the dog back to full health and use of its leg, although she admitted the dog might end up with a small limp. She sent the two girls on numerous missions to obtain all sorts of rare herbs. The healing process would take a total of three weeks during which Pepper was not allowed to move about much nor was anybody allowed to leave the library other than the two girls, who were master thieves and could enter and exit so smoothly that even the army of homicidal mafia thugs who watched the library day and night couldn’t detect them.
Second: Give a seasoned, experienced, well practiced witch good reason to hate you and three weeks to come up with vindictive ways to hurt you, and frankly, there are few things that can accomplish this better or more creatively than magic. To this effect the gang had a discussion during week one of how to get this done, and of course they invited Pepper into their circle as family.
“So,” said Sam, “it seems like what we’re saying is we need a three pronged approach. Kill the Uncle, defeat the Warlock and steal the object back. Obviously Simon, myself and the girls will execute the theft of the object. As for killing the Uncle,” he looked at Agatha who smiled a face wide, ear to ear smile that made the fur on Sam’s back stand up, “Oooooookay. I think we have that covered. But if i understand correctly, we cannot accomplish either of these tasks with the Warlock still in play.”
Agatha nodded. “No. There’s no way.”
“And you can’t defeat him?”
Agatha shook her head. “No. I can’t. I’ve spent a couple days analyzing his magical signature. I know who he is.”
Everyone leaned in.
“His name is Paolu Champieu. He belongs to the most powerful banking family in the city of Arcadia. I don’t how that pot bellied sadist got him to New Albion, but he is… he is formidable and i’m quite certain a ways over my head. Not that i haven’t got any ideas. I think i’ve come up with how to destroy him.”
“How?” Sam asked.
“Well…. i think the trick is to create a phoenix and sic it on him.”
“And you can do this?” One of the girls asked.
“Uh… no. It’s over my head.” Agatha admitted.
“So,” Agatha said, “I have friends in Arcadia, too.”
A few days later the gang was hanging out in the main room of the library. They had cleaned up most of the debris caused by the Room’s appearance. The Room had popped away to a friendly carpenter it knew who it went to when in need of repair. The girls were practicing specific stealth techniques they were going to need for the big Plan. Simon was reading a historical novel. Sam was curled up on top of Pepper. Agatha was obsessively working out kinks in the spell she was going to use on the Uncle and in the stacks an iguana was wandering around.
A woman waltzed into the room, something that should have been impossible due to the wards around the library. She was not young, but her age was indeterminable, partly due to a healthy sheen of vitality , as well as a hint of Glamour that constantly radiated off of her, something she had picked up during the time she had lived in the Faerie city of Avalon.
Everyone looked up and saw her.
“Nero!” Sam cried, and bounded over to her.
Agatha immediately fell to one knee and bowed her head.
“Sensei,” she said.
“My favorite pupil,” Nero said, picking Agatha up and hugging her. “You’re all looking well, except you, poor puppy.” Nero walked over to Pepper, scritched her gently behind her ears and whispered something in Dog, which surprised Pepper to no end, having assumed humans were incapable of speaking Dog.
“I got your message, dear. In a bind?”
They all nodded.
“Normally…” Nero sighed. “Well, you know. This is some vindictive, bordering on black magic shit you’re asking. But fucking Paolu Champieu. You KNEW there was no way i was going to pass up the opportunity to kick his god damned ass.”
Agatha smiled. “You remember the Phoenix ritual? I know it’s… extreme. And demanding. But i couldn’t think of any other way. And it would take two of us at least. More would be even better, but we can’t bring anybody else into this because…”
“The potential repercussions, i know,” said Nero. “Not the least of which is karma.” She turned to Sam. “It’s a bitch of a spell. Takes 5 days to cast. You cannot sleep or leave the room during this time. Eating is only corn mush once a day and there is only a single bucket to do your business in during the three 15 minute breaks you get. If you have to pee any other time you just… you just have go right there on the floor. And locked in that room for 5 days, it gets nasty. Also, by the 5th day, you have to both have gone insane and remain so for about 12 hours or the spell can’t work.”
“Jeez,” said Sam. “Are you sure you even…”
“But holy fuck,” Nero gritted her teeth, “Motherfucking Paolu Champieu.”
The gang resumed their various activities as Agatha approached Nero to confer. Nero glanced at one of the stacks. “Agatha… is that an iguana?”
“Yes,” replied Agatha. “We’re….” she blushed, “… friends.”
The next two weeks passed in a flurry of preparation. The plan was tricky as due to the Uncle’s overwhelming manpower and resources, the three prongs of their plan had to occur as simultaneously as possible. This meant that Agatha would have almost no recovery time from the Phoenix spell before having to cast the curse on the Uncle.
When Sam asked about this curse, Agatha smiled sweetly again. “Explosive diarrhea.”
“Death by… explosive diarrhea?”
“And, uh, how long does that take?”
“Three days. ”
“Three days? So.. what exactly…”
“You shit non stop for 70 hours until you die.” Agatha said, the sweet smile never leaving her face.”
The Phoenix spell was rare to be attempted and even rarer to succeed. Furthermore, in the handful of recorded times it had succeeded, the magicians casting it built in an endpoint: when the phoenix completed its task it would cease to exist. Agatha thought this was atrocious and unforgivable. Once life was created it had the right to continue living until it did something like hurt a dog and kick her in the stomach. So the Phoenix, once birthed, would have no end date built into it and could enjoy a long, interesting life, provided it could survive its very first task.
Pepper actually witnessed the birth of the Phoenix and the bird of fire was the most beautiful thing she was ever to see in her entire life. Exquisite, magnificent, it burst into being and flew off to find its prey.
For three hours the sky above New Albion was alight with an incredible cascade of exploding color. It was a fireworks show unrivaled, but finally, the battered Phoenix struck the killing blow. The warlock’s scream echoed through the skies and across the city. The Phoenix flew off to begin a long life, yet another strange being living in and around the city of New Albion.
Back at the library, a disheveled Agatha, who looked and smelled like hell after the 5 day ritual said in slurred voice, “That’s it. He’s dead.” She immediately began putting into effect the curse upon the Uncle.
Nero, who looked and smelled even worse, did a silent fist pump in the air. “Yes. Fucking Paolu Champieu. Eat shit you sadistic fuck.”
At the same time the girls, Simon the albatross and Sam the mouse were working together to get to and breach a high rise where the object was. Many floors below a certain pot bellied Uncle began having stomach pains. He stood up to excuse himself when the shitting started. In moments his pants were soaking wet, yet the outpour continued. He barked to have the warlock brought to him immediately, but at this moment a messenger arrived to inform everyone that the warlock had been killed by of all things a fiery bird.
The Uncle began calling for the bird’s death, but the never ending torrent gushing forth from his now aching sphincter was starting to occupy his full attention. Since this is not a story about fan fiction fetish porn, the next 70 hours of the Uncle’s life is not something we need to spend much more time on, but it was terrible. He did die alone at the end of it, especially since no one wanted to swim the deep sea of diarrhea he was bobbing up and down in in the large cellar room where they eventually put him somewhere around hour 30.
Our attention now turns to Sam the mouse. His team carried out their end of the heist perfectly, and thus it was that Sam slowly crept into a dim room where they were now sure the object had to be. Inside sat a thin, matronly woman, in a large chair, holding the golden object in her hand.
“Ah. Here you are. Sam the mouse i presume.”
Sam gazed at her. “I know you. I recognize you from old photos in the paper. You’re Isabela. You’re the red haired dwarf’s wife.”
“I am. I was. I miss him still sometimes. He was a remarkable man and a much better husband than people imagine.”
“And so… now you lead the mafia?”
“No. My eldest son does now. I raised him to do so. I was an idiot and he is a monster.”
Sam paused, unsure of how to proceed.
“My youngest had a spark of something. Something beautiful. I helped smother it. Took relish in it, in fact.”
Sam started running through scenarios of how to get the object and get out. None of which were playing out well in his head.
“Sam. I have waited for you all day. All week in fact. You of all of them have the potential to…” she hesitated, “understand one day. I hope one day, long from now we can meet again.”
“Well, if that means i survive this conversation, that is a great invitation and i’m up for it,” Sam said.
“Sam, my dear. I know i have been an evil woman. I knew it most of my life, i just didn’t care. I…” she looked away. “Something happened recently. Something i can’t explain. Something…” she drifted into thought. Sam waited.
“I see things now i never saw before. See my role in things. And oh yes, it is a terrible thing to behold. I grieve and my days are filled with regret. Sometimes i think it is more than i can bear.
“But… for instance, this discussion. You won’t understand this, but i see more narrative possibilities in giving you this object than keeping it from you. Despite my regret and shame, i am curious. Curious for the first time in ages. I do not believe there is anyone here that can help me learn what it is that i have become.
“There are… i believe there are two men, odd men at that, very difficult to find, but never the less who might be able to offer some assistance in this matter. And as for all this…” she motioned around her “I would never have thought i’d ever say this, but this disgusts me now. I cannot be part of it, though i did help build it.
“I am leaving it all. Let it burn. Let it rot. Maybe my youngest can put things right, maybe not and the cycle will just go on and on.”
Isabela stood up. “Good luck to you, Sam. Watch out for my eldest. He’s a real asshole.” She handed him the object. Sam took it, bowed and bounded to the window where Simon awaited.
“And dear…” she called.
Sam turned back around.
The gang reassembled. They patted each other on the back, they celebrated, they slept. Agatha and Nero studied the golden object but couldn’t get it to do anything other than produce a few grains of sand. Nero and Pepper were the ones who took the object to the albinos as Nero spoke very good albinese.
In the evenings Nero and Pepper would sit on the rooftop and chat in dog, although dog conversations are usually very short, unless you decide to sing/howl. They did this too.
At the end of two weeks the gang got a letter from the red haired son that they needed to appear before him and swear allegiance. Agatha told Nero that now was a good time to get going as things were going to heat up again. Nero offered to stay and help, but Agatha just hugged her sensei and bid her farewell. Pepper was given a choice to stay with the gang or set off with Nero and she decided to set off, knowing she was welcome back anytime.
Nero and Pepper stayed together many years more. Pepper went to Arcadia, Avalon, and the Coreswind Archipelago. In her later years they settled down in New Albion.
Pepper lived to be an old, happy dog and saw some of the friends she made along the way from time to time. One day, she was laying in the flat, in a sunbeam that was shining down into the window. The radio was on and Pepper was half listening. But the program on the radio suddenly stopped. Instead, a lovely, haunting song started playing. It spoke of the edges of time and silent, sighed, lost lullabies. Pepper listened to it, transfixed. When it ended, she closed her old, tired eyes and died.