Calavera sat on his throne leaned forward with his head in his hands. Despite it being hot outside, he shivered with a chill colder than any winter he’d ever experienced. Sweat beaded on his forehead and threatened to drip into his eyes. His breathing was shallow and his heart pounded at a thousand beats per second. Was that even possible? Why was this happening to him?
Before he could hypothesize an answer, Rib rushed to him with a warm cloth and pressed it to his forehead. “My lord, you’re so hot,” he said, though not with the context he wanted. “You’re burning up. You must rest.”
Calavera gazed in wonder at his minion and mustered a grunt in response. Rib has always been so good to him.
“The Graveyard Fighters, are they dead?”
Rib shook his head sadly. “They still draw breath, I’m afraid. There weren’t any viable human corpses nearby- only woodland creatures. They were defeated by a simple fire pulse spell.” He felt Calavera’s body go limp with disappointment. “If I may speak freely, it’s no wonder it failed. You’ve used so much of your limited power that you are close to killing yourself.”
The king knew this to be true, but he wanted those boys dead so badly that he was willing to push his powers to their limit to achieve it. If he possessed his former strength he’d have a higher probability of doing so, but his strength was returning slowly. It would take considerable time to get back to his former glory. He would have to rest for a few days to regain the power he just used. He did not like this because it gave the Fighters enough time to plan a counterattack. If he had any hope of defeating them, he’d need as much power as he could muster.
“Fine, I will do as you say,” the king said, taking the cloth for himself. “I will rest.”
Rib bowed enthusiastically. “Please, leave the Graveyard Fighters to me. My tracking spell is still strong. I will go to them and dispose of them in your name.”
Calavera stood up, his legs shook beneath him with the intensity of a disturbed Jello mold. Rib helped him down and lovingly led him to his bedchamber.
Once the king was tucked into bed, Rib softly shut the door behind him. He straightened his posture and took a deep breath. He was going to kill those kids for putting his love through so much pain. “I won’t let you down, my love.” He clenched his left fist dramatically and teleported away, leaving a plume of purple smoke in his wake.
It only took Creston and Fox two hours to walk to Wilshire Village, mostly because of the pace Creston set. He claimed it was because he didn’t like the idea that Riblet could find them so easily, but Fox knew the real reason why they got there so quickly.
“So tell me more about this Peg character,” Creston said as they crossed the village threshold. He waved at the young women he passed and gave them a suggestive wink. The women were not impressed and scowled at him.
“Well, he’s a big shot potion master-“
“I gathered that, but how did you meet him? How did your paths cross?”
Fox heard the curiosity in his voice. A mischievous grin found its way to his lips. “When Old Man Jenkins got really sick five years ago, I had to travel here to get a one of a kind potion. Peg was the only game in town. His potion worked wonders for Jenkins.”
Creston pretended not to be interested once he was satisfied with the answer. “Oh. Nice.”
“Then I found myself getting sick quite often, so I had to come here frequently to get a potion or two from him.”
The hair on the back of Creston’s neck stood up when he heard this. When his ears perked up, Fox knew he got him hooked. “Like, how frequently?”
“Like once every two weeks, for a while.”
Creston cleared his throat in an attempt to not let on how bothered he was by this. He gave Fox a quick glance and saw the grin on his face. He felt relieved instantly. “You’re winding me up, aren’t you?”
“You’re not jealous, are you?”
“Pfft! No! Not at all. I’m glad you’ve made friends. So, how far is this gentleman’s club?” Creston rubbed his hands together in anticipation.
“Just a bit farther. Keep your pants on.”
“Once we get there, I can’t make any promises.”
Fox was right, the club was just a bit farther. The end of the main road ended in a cul-de-sac. Dead ahead stood a two story building painted in an obnoxious neon green color that burned the retinas of anyone who stared at it longer than a minute. Music from a live band was heard as the Fighters approached the front door.
Creston read the wooden plaque just to the right of the door. ‘The Yard.’ He thought it was a very interesting name for a strip club, but he wasn’t in the business of naming things, so he let it go. He allowed Fox to open the door for him, not catching the smirk on his face. When he walked inside, his eyes were ready to feast upon the beauties inside.
His eyes were greeted by a tall muscular man wearing only a bowtie who approached them carrying a tray of drinks. Creston took a step back, but bumped into Fox, who had closed the door behind him.
“Complimentary cocktail?” the man asked.
“No… no thanks,” Creston replied. His throat was suddenly dry.
His eyes darted around the dimly lit room and took in the sights. There were nude men dancing on boxes in strategic places in the room, even more nude men serving drinks to other men enjoying the show. It took a second for Creston to realize where he was. He turned to Fox and said, “I thought you said this was a gentlemen’s club!”
Fox chuckled. “It is. It’s a gentlemen’s club for gentlemen who prefer the company of other gentlemen.”
Creston frowned at Fox’s enjoyment of his disappointment. “You tricked me.”
“You tricked yourself.” Fox patted his friend on the back as he approached the main bar on the far right of the room. He found his friend behind the bar, vigorously shaking a drink like a showman. He sidled up to the bar and knocked on the wooden flat top. “What’s a guy gotta do to get some attention in here?”
Peg, a burly, bearish man with curly brown hair that ended with tight ringlets, glanced at Fox with his olive green eyes and let out a jovial laugh at the sight of his friend. “Fox, you old bastard! It’s about time you came to see me! I’ve missed you!” His voice rang through the club like a foghorn, not to be drowned out by the music. He set the metal mixers down and bounded out from behind the bar to hug Fox- a bear hug of sorts. “You’ve gotten so thick! That’s good! More for me to grab!” He noticed the icy glare he was receiving from Creston and slowly released Fox. “And this is?”
“Peg, this is my friend Creston, the other remaining member of the Graveyard Fighters.” Fox stepped aside as Peg shook Creston’s hand.
Peg examined Creston’s face and noticed the confused expression he had. “What’s wrong? You don’t like my club?”
Creston retrieved his hand, now sore from Peg’s tight grip, and said, “Let’s just say that it’s not what I was expecting.”
“Ahh, I see,” Peg replied. “But it’s great, right?”
“I find your lack of breasts disturbing.”
“That’s not what I’ve heard.” Peg gave Creston a playful nudge and then winked at Fox. “I’m so glad you’ve come by! I got a new idea for a drink and I want you to try it. I just finished mixing it! Come!” He pushed them toward the bar, then went behind it. He picked up the two metal cups and shoved them in front of the boys.
Creston and Fox carefully peered inside to find a cold, thick, pink and white creamy concoction bubbling softly. They exchanged curious glances before they returned their attention to the creamy goodness.
“What is it?” Fox asked, sniffing it.
“See, I don’t know.” Peg folded his arms and stared at them quizzically. “The idea came to me in a dream.”
“A dream?” Creston set the cup down, determined not to take a sip.
“Yeah. A voice gave me the recipe and told me it would bring the boys here.” Peg shrugged and urged Creston to take a sip. “I mean, if it’ll bring me more business, I’ll try anything.”
“If you ask me, I don’t think it’s the drinks keeping the boys away,” Creston joked.
“Then I guess it’s a good thing I didn’t ask you.” Peg reached over the bar and grabbed Creston’s hand holding the cup, raising it to his lips.
The cold liquid went down smoothly and was quite tasty, eliciting a surprised moan. Creston quickly finished the drink and was disappointed that there wasn’t more. “That was really good!”
Fox took a sip as well and came to the same conclusion. “I hope you have more.”
Peg’s satisfied grin told them all they needed to know. He stroked his long greying beard as he watched Fox and Creston gulp down the second helping he produced. “You should help me come up with a name for them. I’m thinking ‘Cream Quakes’, but it isn’t exactly catchy.”
Fox shook his head. “It certainly doesn’t roll off the tongue.”
“It sure doesn’t,” Creston agreed. “It sounds a little basic to me.”
“What?” Peg asked. “Basic?”
“Ugh, it’s a word he made up. He’s trying to make it happen, and I keep telling him it’s not going to happen.” Fox gave Creston a playful shove. “Speaking of happening, the reason why we’re here is because we think someone may have put a tracking spell on us. Since the Skeleton King’s return, we’ve been jumped twice in two different locations.”
Peg’s face scrunched up as he examined them both. His eyes scanned not only their bodies, but the air around them. He saw a faint orange glow that emanated from within them. Their auras were dimmer than they should be. Something had been covering them for what seemed like a long time. “Yep, definitely a tracking spell, and a mighty powerful one at that. It’s been clinging to you for years, diluting your auras something nasty. That’s probably why you were feeling sick so often.”
Creston coughed uncontrollably at this. When he caught his breath, he turned to Fox and said, “I thought you were kidding just to get my goat.”
“Why would he want your goat?” Peg asked, confused. “Goats are cheap. He doesn’t need yours.”
Fox chuckled. He loved his friends so much. “So, do you think you could whip up something to neutralize the spell?”
“No, I don’t think I can.” Peg watched Fox and Creston’s cheerful expressions turn to disappointment. “I know I can! Let me find the recipe for the Dispel Potion and you’ll be sneaking around the world in no time!” He ducked below the bar to find his book of recipes. As he moved bottles of unknown fluids around, a thought suddenly came to him.
Peg popped back up and asked, “If you say the Skeleton King is tracking you, do you think he might find you here?”
It was then the front door was kicked open, startling everyone. The music and the dancing stopped, and all attention was turned to the door. A man wearing a purple robe entered holding a long, wooden staff stood in the doorway. His face was shrouded by his hood until he pulled it off slowly in a dramatic fashion. He turned to Creston and Fox and glowered at them. “Graveyard Fighters,” he said.
Creston smiled and tapped Fox on the shoulder. “Hey look, it’s Riblet!”
Rib rolled his eyes and growled. He couldn’t wait to kill them.