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Trade Secret


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Leveticus stroked his chin as he examined the dilemma in front of him. His next move could end him, and he was going to take his time. Finally, he knew what must be done.

“Check,” he announced, placing his rook on the same square as Alyce’s bishop.

As the piece touched the square a mechanical buzzing filled the air and the piece whirred to life. It was a very lifelike, although miniature version of Sebastion, the clumsy guild morgue assistant. The piece raised its saw into the air and brought it down on the head of Alyce’s miniature death Marshal, cutting it in half.

“Rats.” Alyce mumbled, wiping the scraps off of the board.

“You are too focused,” Leveticus said, raising an eyebrow, “you don’t see all of your options.”

“Too focused?! I’ve been sitting here looking at these silly pieces with you for hours! I could be out doing target practice!”

“I’m not talking about your patience. I’m talking about the game itself. You pick a course of action and then see it through to the end, like a dog who has his victim by the throat. It’s effective if your opponent lets you do it, but things never stay the same.”

“What do you mean?” Alyce huffed in annoyance.

“With every move the game changes. When I moved my rook where I did everything started over. With the move of a single pawn, we are playing an entirely different game on an entirely different board. You have to see it with new eyes and adapt to the changes around you, does that make sense?”

Alyce squinted at the board for a moment before her face broke out into a wide, toothy grin. Her hand whipped out from under the table, bringing her revolver with it. She squeezed the trigger and the weapon spat out a bullet with a loud crack.

Leveticus sighed and shook his head as he gazed down at the giant, smoking hole in the middle of the game.

“Oh look,” Alyce smirked, “It’s an entirely new game, on an entirely new board.”

The tiny Douglas McMourning which had been Leveticus’s king fell over with a thump.

“And I think that’s check mate,” Alyce said with a chuckle.

A loud clanging rang out from the floor below. Two short clangs followed by five long clangs. Leveticus shrugged his shoulders and threw the ruined board into the pile with all the others. “That would be the good doctor now, come to make our trade.”

Alyce followed her aging lover down into the basement of Leveticus’s Salvage and Logistics, where a great metal hatch awaited them. It led to the sewers, and Leveticus had installed it in anticipation of clients who preferred the luxury of a private entrance.

Leveticus turned his key in the lock and lifted the iron lid to reveal the gaping black pit below. From its depths appeared the twisted face and mad features of Doctor McMourning, rising slowly into the light.

Leveticus smiled. “Did you bring him?”

“Of course. What kind of skrewk would I be if I didn’t keep my end of the bargain?” With that the doctor pulled heavily on the length of chain he was carrying and a groaning could be heard from below. Out of the pit rose another pitiful creature. The vague shape of it was the only clue it had ever been human. Putrid flesh clung desperately to broken bone. Ragged cuts covered the torso and whatever skin was still left. But the most striking feature of all was the eyes. Eyes filled to the brim with hatred and malice, a sadistic rage at all who held on to the spark of life that it had lost so long ago.

“Quite the specimen.” Leveticus said with a smile.

“One of my best works, this one. In life he loved nothing but to cause pain and torture. Employed by the guild for those very talents, in fact. But, in death, his life’s joys have blossomed into an art form.” The Doctor grinned wickedly.

“Hmm,” Leveticus scratched his chin, “A bit damaged,” he said, gesturing to where the creature’s hand should be.

“Oh, that?” McMourning said, waving his hand, “Just a bit of wear and tear. Lost that hand so many times I stopped counting. Finally just decided to go with a hook, he makes good use of it.”

“I’m sure he does.” Leveticus nodded. “And from him I can make others of his design?”

“Of course! Of course!”

“Very well, then. I think you have more than upheld your end of the deal. I suppose I should up hold mine,” Leveticus said as he began ascending the stairs into the upper portions of his workshop.

Alyce and McMourning were alone in the dark. At least, as alone as they could be with the cold, spiteful eyes of the undead upon them.

“Has anyone ever told you what a pretty smile you have, my dear?” The Doctor said, with a humble bow.

“Some smiles just show teeth.” Alyce growled, cocking her revolver.

“Yes, I suppose they do…”

Leveticus slowly made his way back down the stairs, a loud thumping sound trailing him. Finally, he came into view dragging a large coffin.

McMourning inspected it intently. “Yes, yes! It’s perfect! This is the genuine article! The pride of the death marshal’s arsenal! How did you get it?”

Almost as if to answer him, a loud pounding sounded from within the wooden prison, followed by maddened, desperate screams.

“Trade secret.” Leveticus smiled.

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