Deft Beck: Author
He was the best worst thing to happen to me.
Being a civil servant wasn't the greatest job, especially when you haven't a soul. Fortunately, good things come to those who wait.
If there's one positive thing I could say about Master Richter, it's that he made me realize my potential, however long it took. It was a long six years, but I believe it was worth it.
The hinging point was a simple case regarding two brothers, brought before their family's surrogate lawyer.
My origins are more nebulous than anything; a short man of tall importance by the name of Richter Wortel cast me out of the ether and into being via a pentagram; the way I felt it, one minute I wasn't anyone, and the next I stood in front of a stout man in dusty grey robes.
“Creature from the lower world, I hath formed you out of nothing to serve as my assistant in my affairs.” He was always quite the thespian, the show-off.
He sternly assigned my name as Kraspen, to my chagrin, and my occupation as a secretary.
He pointed me to the open, rotting door, leading to a decrepit hallway that branched off to his chambers and what was to become my room.
The room was almost bare, only lightly decorated. To start, there was a single lightbulb hanging near a dirty window overseeing a plain mattress. The whole place smelled of something dead, or about to be. Even though I didn't know it at the time, my place had been set in stone for longer than I had known.
The first six years I spent in went by like a slowly burning pumpkin candle, Richter's favorite scent. He used to keep a side garden and trusted it to me when his health grew worse. Unfortunately, the soil seemed to have lost its nitrogen and it didn't grow a thing more, thus warranting the candles.
He suspected that it was his dabblings with the occult that feebled him, but the common speak amongst his infrequent guests related it to the stress of keeping up the illusion of normalcy in the face of his dual lives, supernaturally-involved or not. This didn't stop them from speaking of religion, though, a touchy subject with Master.
Benvolio Slagtand trusted Richter with the knowledge of the Slagtand family vampirism, which led Richter to ask questions. From what I could judge of the ratty dreamcatchers overhanging his four-post bed and the pumpkin incense he had me burn every night, he had his suspicions even before he managed the eerie pubman's estate.
One of the biggest mysteries in that regard concerned his robes. Whenever he had to perform a summoning for part-time imps or whatever dumb muscle he needed, that's what he wore. They only caught my attention because they contradicted pretty strongly to two things:
First off, Master never attended any services—
“I'm already going to Hell,” he assured me. I knew he meant where I came from, but I found offense in that, not because it hit close to home or something, but because I knew he was better than that. You can learn a lot about a person in six bloody years, even if it's as far as the fact that those grey robes were from when he was a vicar—
Oh, that was the second thing. Yes, that's all I really could infer about his past, because I saw the same kinds of robes on the programmes that Richter watched daily in the afternoons. It just went against the kind of image I had in my head, of what he was before I knew him. Why did he want to hide that from me? That God damned old man!
...In the light of Master's quirks, I tried my best to keep his small dwelling in good form, but everything was falling apart, from the floorboards to the ceilings and everything inside.
One question struck me especially; there was something that kept Richter going, tethering himself to the mortal coil with a vice grip. It must have been more than the licks of Hell's flames.
On that fateful day, it was frigid inside the room of Master's practice, both literally and in spirit. I could see my breath in the hall as Master had me arranging his office before his biggest clients arrived at noon; The notice came via electronic mail, detailing the scheduling of a meeting to read Benvolio Slagtand's will, arguably the most shocking turn of events in these parts for a long while.
With all of that stirring inside my head, that cold morning, I couldn't reach the top of one of Master's many ancient oak cabinets.
Over the years, I've had a multitude of issues regarding my body. First off, it has proven to be far too short in height for anyone to take me seriously, with many a passerby giggling, gasping or gagging in my presence. Even after I pleaded and pleaded to Master for some shoe lifts, like I've seen himself wear, he just ignored me and stared out the cracked stained glass windows of his practice without saying a word.
After a few shouts down the hall, Master's golem Cassius came over, lowering his head through the high doorway and putting one heavy foot down onto the thankfully solid floorboards with a crash. He stood his ground level to the cabinet, like a stoic, ancient god of some island with a better climate than Galway county. He didn't budge as I clambered over the grooves etched into his back, retrieving the Slagtand case files.
The previous night, I had found Cassius clinging to the side of the rooftop, chasing after a stray imp. The little bugger had scampered to the opaque glass dome and was producing horrible, piercing screeches. Richter figured that Cassius lost his footing in his pursuit and took a few dozen rows of tiling with him as he slid down the roof, slamming into the stained glass window that faced the sitting room. Just as I had scrambled out in my nightclothes, I saw him drop to the ground with a dull thud. Thankfully, the neighbors hadn't heard or seen a thing.
Master had to call back Cassius' spirit just before it dissolved back into the lower world. It took a week to deliver the new clay to Master's practice, a large pain for my back as I dragged in the shipment through the large steel gate that surrounded the entrance. I had to form Cassius a new body out of Loch Ness clay, making him effectively younger than when he was encased in Lias clay. Master would have done it himself, he claims, but his days of stonemasonry were over.
Richter only needed the golem to act as a bodyguard, a simple job for the simplest of machinations. From what I could tell, Cassius would be active as long as his master's heart beat, whereas I could carry on, being free as soon as it stopped.
I figured I had a choice then, either returning to the lower world or finding another purpose, whatever it may be. There's a big world out there, and I've never seen as much as a dozen kilometers outside of the friggin' province! Bloody France is a stone's throw away and I've never had the guts to stand up to my damn master!
...I knew what I had to do, but hell, I didn't know what I had to do.
I hadn't seen Master since he retired early last evening, so I crept over to his chambers and pulled back the heavy doors. His small frame was laid upon his tremendous bed, eyes closed and not a sound coming from him. I grew worried and laid my head next to his chest to check for a heartbeat, but to no avail.
Panic threatened to set upon me until I glanced upon a piece of notebook paper and a small, aged frame containing a shriveled document – the deed to the property.
So he's an actor now! It figures that his last real words to me would be in the form of prose. He always seemed to be like that, stern and silent, letting his work speak for him. People around the town of Cathrac Asal would remark that he used to be quite the vocal person in town hall, especially upon the subject of property taxes. He was all about land, that man.
Then it hit me. He was leaving me in a state of ambivalence; he knew I couldn't decide what to do, so he decided for me. Stubborn ass!
...Although that is quite unexpected. It's almost too kind for a grump like him.
Before I could make a conclusion, I heard a muffled knock at the door. I forced it open and tore at the carpet a bit, forcing the light and the sight of the guests into the open.
Peering down at me from up above was a tall, reedy man, dressed in a brown cardigan that appeared to be a lighter shade of his own skin. He had his lips pursed closed and was staring at me with clear intent.
Below him was a curly mass of black hair wearing dark sunglasses that hid his eyes entirely. Sweat coated his brow and formed a sheen on his pale face, looking disgruntled and shifting his pointed teeth about as he waited.
The Slagtand brothers had arrived early. It's about freegin' time, too!
“I knoh wat's the deel heah, bot I wonna see wot's reely the deel heah,” spat the elder Slagtand, shaking off the sweat from his curls as he sat in Richter's office. I just stood with my hands wringing the files and looking at the other Slagtand, who was lounging by that one cabinet near the door, not listening to his brother's ranting.
“You go' no'ing tah sey?” he shouted at Chinua, baring his fangs outward. His brother continued to ignore him. All of a sudden, Benton Slagtand slammed his fist onto the heavy oak desk, actually rattling the floor a bit with the impact, making me flinch, but not Chinua.
“Mr. Slagtand, I assure you thet—“
“Dis es feckin' bullshit!”
Slagtand cuts me off like a guillotine, his voice like a foghorn, his words failing to echo in the cramped office. Ben gets up in a huff and stomps out of the office, heading to the front door. He's checking his keys, missing the one to the pub, which was in Chinua's hand; he was swinging it around his finger as I heard Ben shout his final words on the situation into the hall, hands and curly head shaking.
“...y' feckin...shiet-blood!” The door slammed behind him, and I was left with Chinua, myself in shock and him finally looking me straight in the eye, still not speaking.
“...you'll make yo' father prowd, I'm sure of et,” I assured the younger Slagtand, who finally stopped leaning on that cabinet and took the paperwork from me. We stood for a moment, before he finally said something.
“Thank you for your services.” It was a simple reply from a complicated man.
He left me in the office alone, closing the door behind himself silently before swinging it open abruptly and poking his head through, peering upwards at me.
“Sorry 'bout your loss. He served the clan well,” he concluded, bowing his head solemnly. Benton could learn a thing or two from him. “Y' welcome anytime, just le' us know.”
He closed the door shut and I could hear his footsteps down the hall, forcing open the entrance and slamming it shut behind him. A man of action, Chinua Slagtand.
Like I said, good things come to those who wait.
That time, I chose not to wait any longer. Six years was long enough to start living my life. My master's accounts weren't a problem; I just had to say that he left the practice to me. An informal part of the will, if you will. Nothing wrong with it, it was what he would have wanted..
With that in mind, I could have appreciated it if Chin had wiped down the bar sooner, rather than later. He was the better of the Slagtand brothers, in my opinion, but he still had his eccentricities, making him distinct from his curly-haired brethren in more ways than blood.
“Sorry about that...” he murmured as he threw me the keys and slammed the entrance door behind him, merging briskly into the night. I looked out the pub window and I could barely see his gangling figure walking away, hands in his pockets.
The lights from the inside of the Slagtand pub made my eyes water, but I wiped the sweat off of my forehead with my dress shirt and turned all of them off.
I fastened the padlocks of the pub's many entrances and exits soon after, finishing with the entrance. Breathing a sigh of relief, I took a few uneasy steps before merging them into a steady clip. My head was throbbing, so I rubbed the side of my temples with my cold hands, feeling the uneven, bare scalp as I went on my way.
After I got back to the property, I turned on the hallway light and deposited my keys inside a pair of cupped hands, cold as stone. I patted the shoulder of the immobile golem as I passed it by on the way to my room.
My feet were killing me, so I slipped off my Vans and jumped on the mattress as soon as I got in my room. The bed felt as lumpy as it had when I first arrived here. Nowadays, I've got nice new pillows, but that smell of death has only gotten stronger; not literally, of course, 'cause of the spell, but in spirit, you see. The room is dark, aside from the light above my head.
There's a property dispute I've got to handle in the morning, and Benton's still not back from his bartender's course; he's trying his best to be a better restaruanteur but that's not going to cut it. Chinua was better suited to run the pub and he knew it, so why doesn't he just give up? It almost feels like he's obligated to his brother and his family, even if it's not really his.
I wonder if Richter had all of this on his mind when he dealt with Benvolio. Surely Ben wouldn't have put Chinua in the will if he hadn't trusted him as much as a blood heir, much like myself with Master. I'm still not as much of a bitch as friggin' Benton, that's for sure.
I could have just returned to the ether, but I didn't; Richter would have been disappointed. And you know what, I would have been disappointed in myself. Now, let's lay the issue to rest. Case closed.
Ugh, bloodsuckers kept me up past shift...
This town's full of bloody freaks...and I'm one of the bloody lot...