Rib stood alone at the summit of Crevice Rock. Despite being closer to the sun, the area was unnaturally cool. A breeze blew by, causing his purple robe to flap brilliantly. He imagined his silhouette looked stunningly heroic from below. He took a moment to pose with his left hand, tipping his imaginary sombrero-type hat on the off chance that someone might see him and sketch a picture, cementing this moment in history. Unfortunately, the only person who saw him was Killít.
“You being weird again?” she asked condescendingly.
Rib sighed as he released his pose. Killít stood before him, seemingly coming out of nowhere. He hadn’t sensed her arrival or the method she used to get there. He wanted to ask how she came to be there at the exact moment, but what he saw next astounded him even further. Fox stood next to her looking very much alive, and very pissed off. His hands were bound by her whip; its magic rendered his useless, thus preventing his escape.
“What is he doing here?” Rib shouted, not able to contain his frustration.
Killít smirked and said, “You asked me to bring him, remember?”
“He was supposed to be dead when you brought him here. His limp, lifeless body was what I desired his state of being to be.” Rib’s eyes narrowed to slits, glowering at her with hatred seeping from them. “You know very well that he’s supposed to be devoid of life! He doesn’t look very dead to me.”
Killít looked Fox over and nodded in agreement. “Sharp as a tack, you are.”
She’s fucking with me! What is she playing at? “I paid you to kill him. He has yet to cease to be!”
Killít stroked her non-existent beard as she listened. She waited until he was done before she said, “See, about that. I got to thinking; this job started out alright, but then you asked for a very specific modification- to make it look like an accident. I thought, ‘Now why would someone want that?'” She noticed Rib’s anxious expression and knew her suspicions were correct. She continued.
“It’s almost as if someone wanted to blame us for something that could have been prevented. You see what I’m saying.”
“I’m not paying you to think,” Rib said, shifting his weight and eye contact. “I’m paying you to kill people.”
“But you see, thinking is what’s kept us alive for so long.” Killít took two steps toward the purple clad man and smirked. “See, when someone hires us to do a job that they could easily do themselves with special accommodations, we begin to think we’re being set up. When the orders come from someone as powerful as the Skeleton King, you don’t want to fuck around. So, we came to the conclusion that Cal really wants this boy alive. Am I right?”
Rib didn’t like where this was going. He hadn’t expected his assassins to ask questions. They were supposed to just kill the Graveyard Fighters and take the money. Killít had a point he couldn’t deny. One did not cross the Skeleton King, so he begrudgingly respected her caution.
So, what’s this going to cost me?” he asked.
Fox scoffed. “Just your dignity, but judging by your attire, you lost that long ago.”
Rib scowled and shouted, “Silence, worm! The grown-ups are talking.” He returned his ire to the assassin and repeated his question.
Killít extended her left hand and said, “30,000 gold pieces.”
Rib choked on his spit as he gasped dramatically. “Excuse me?!”
She knew he was going balk at that. “You heard me, bitch. 30,000 gold pieces. And on account of us being such good friends, you get a discount.” She winked at Rib and watched him squirm. If she was going to risk her life defying the Skeleton King, she wanted to be well compensated.
Rib fumed until his face almost matched his outfit. “That’s outrageous!”
“So you’ve said.”
“This is extortion!”
“I’m an assassin. This is on brand with my alignment.” Killít took another step with her hand still extended. “So, if you want this boy dead, you’ve got to pay up.”
Rib backed away and slapped her hand away. “Get away from me! I’m not paying that.”
Fox coughed. “Everything has a price.” While his life was on the line, he couldn’t help but enjoy Rib’s financial torment. He wasn’t sure if he should feel glad that the Skeleton King wanted him alive. What use could he possibly have for him alive? He supposed he was going to find out whether he wanted to or not.
Killít laughed as she withdrew her hand. She expected this response and wasn’t disappointed. While she enjoyed the drama of extorting him, getting Rib to pay for Fox’s death was not her goal. Now was the time to reveal her intention. “If you’re not willing to pay for the boy to be killed, how much would you be willing to pay to keep your true love from finding out you tried to disobey him?”
The skin on Rib’s arms prickled as the threat landed. His face lost its lavender hue in favor of one akin to fresh linen. “You wouldn’t.”
“Feel free to test that theory at your own peril.” Killít reveled in the panic exuding from the purple one. She had his balls in the palm of her hand. Eww, she thought. There was not enough bleach in the world to sanitize that image from her mind.
Not wanting to be left out, Fox added, “Looks like she’s got your balls in a-“
“Dude, eww!” Killít shouted back at him.
Rib sighed because as much as he hated to admit it, Fox was right. His balls were in a vice grip. If she somehow had a connection to Cal and told him of his plan to kill the boy despite his orders, he would lose favor with his beloved, and he’d never be queen. But if he allowed the boy to live, he’d risk being usurped and replaced, also losing the chance to be queen. At least he’d still be by Cal’s side, even if it was in a different capacity. He needed more time to think about this.
“What about the other Fighters? Where are their corpses?” he asked.
Killít rubbed her nails on her chest. “My partner is killing them right now. I wouldn’t be surprised if he wasn’t already on his way with their bodies right now.” She glanced at Rib and saw his wheels were turning. He’s stalling. She wasn’t worried. She held his… cards- all of the cards.
“How do I know they’re not being held in a secure location alive and well? Huh? Your partner is probably making them breakfast and giving them foot rubs.” Rib wanted a foot rub. He briefly entertained a thought of Cal giving him one before he forced himself back to the present. “To what extent are you trying to screw me?”
“To the same extent to which you’ve tried to screw us,” Killít responded. “Don’t try to high road me, sorcerer. You may have magic, but I have brains and beauty. So, what’s it gonna be? Are you paying up or am I gonna have to send a message to our good friend?”
Accepting he’s run out of time, he resigned himself to his fate. He reached into his robe and pulled out his sack of gold. He had more than enough to buy Killít’s silence. He grimaced as he handed it to her, as if it physically pained him to be bereft of it.
She snatched it greedily and hefted it slightly in her palm. She grinned as felt the weight shift. “Good. Good.” She promptly attempted to find a place to stuff it, but everything was far too large to accommodate a bag of that size. She cursed her greed and lack of pockets. “It was a pleasure doing business with you.”
“I’m afraid I can’t say the same,” Rib muttered bitterly.
“I know. The pleasure was all mine.” She tugged her whip, causing Fox to stumble forward helplessly. “He’s all yours.”
Rib, without thinking, lunged forward and caught him before realizing what happened. Their eyes met as if truly seeing each other for the first time. The moment felt like an eternity as they held each other. Neither could understand what this feeling of safety and warmth meant, but when Fox was righted, they quickly backed away from each other.
With a quick yank, Killít’s whip freed Fox’s hands. “The paralyzing effect of his magic will last for a couple more hours, so I suggest you poof away while the poofin’ is good.”
“What about your partner?” Rib asked.
“I’m going to check on him. I’ll update you on his progress.”
With a flick of her wrist, she spun her whip around her, creating a spiral of wind, and then she was gone.
Both Rib and Fox were stunned by what they just witnessed. Rib took a moment to process this before he turned to Fox and said, “You know that bitch has hooves.”
“I don’t doubt it,” Fox replied.
In a flash of purple smoke they were gone. Not enough had dissipated before Creston and Peg arrived on the scene. They were out of breath and sweaty, which made their saddened expressions all the more painful as the realization set in.
Creston cried out in anger as he kicked a rock off the side of the cliff. “We just missed him! He was just here!” He sank to his knees and gripped fistfuls of dirt, allowing it to slip through his fingers, just as Fox had done.
He didn’t know when they started, but tears streamed down his face. Instead of trying to stop them, he let them fall with the strong hope that if Fox senses them, he could use them to find his way back to him.
“Fuck! Why am I always too late?” He pounded the ground with no regard to the state of his hands. He would gladly break them again and again if it meant he could bring his best friend back.
Peg stood behind Creston, not knowing what to do or say to comfort him. His heart broke for him for he knew what it felt like to lose someone dear. He wanted to touch Creston to let him know that he wasn’t alone, but he respected the crying man’s space. While he also cared for Fox, he saw his love couldn’t match what Creston obviously felt for him.
“We’re going to find him, okay?” Peg offered weakly. He didn’t want to make promises, but it was the only thing he could think of to say. “Based on who was just here, it’s pretty obvious where he’s going.”
Creston raised his head and gazed south. “The Bone Castle.” Peg was right. Fox would most certainly be there. Suddenly, he felt better. A new surge of determination pulsed through him. “We were going there anyway. He just got there first.” He dramatically stood up and made a fist with his left hand. “We’re gonna meet him there.”
Glad to see Creston’s hope restored, Peg said, “Damn right we will. He’s waiting for us. We can’t let him down.”
Creston kissed his fist. “Not again. Never again.” He withdrew his sword and uttered the spell to ignite its flames. “I swear to the gods above and below, we will rescue him, and in so doing, defeat the Skeleton King once and for all!”
Tears came to Peg’s eyes as he placed his hand over his heart. “We will be victorious or die trying.”
Creston turned to Peg, as if suddenly remembering he was there. “Die? That’s a bit much, don’t you think?”
Peg smirked. “You draw the line at dying? Man, you are a puss.”
“I’m not a puss! I’d just prefer breathing as opposed to not,” Creston replied, the wind knocked from his sails. “I mean, I’d do anything for him, but dying would just ruin my day.”
Peg shrugged and sighed. “I understand, but you’re gonna die someday.”
Creston returned his gaze southward, where the Bone Castle lay waiting. “Well, death is gonna have to wait until I get Fox back in my arms.” He realized what he said and stopped. He normally would have backtracked and covered up his true intent with something less mushy, but this time, he let it linger in the air. This time, he wasn’t ashamed. There was no time to put up a front. He had to rescue Fox, his best friend, and dare he say it, his…
“Shall we get a move on?” Peg asked, patting his friend on the back. “Time’s a-wastin’.”
Creston sneered at him, resentful of the interruption of his character growth. “I guess so. Let’s go.”
The two of them began their journey down Crevice Rock to further their neverending quest to save their friend, and kill the Skeleton King.
End of Season 1