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flintloque-logo-304x90"Lilith Malone"

A Flintloque Short Story by Danny O'Hara

lilith-malone

In the bustling Albion town of Port Bristle an unexplained death is just the beginning for Miklúg FizzBang and his officers in this cracking Penny Dreadful style short story.

~

Outside the barracks,
By the corner light,
There I will stand,
And wait for you at night.
We will create a world for two.
I'll wait for you,
The whole night through.
For you, Lilith Malone.
For you, Lilith Malone.

The haunting song floated through the dockside pub in Port Bristle. It seemed to work it's way through the hubbub of the loud Orcish conversations and arguments, and tug at the heart-strings of even the most hardened of the audience. The source of the song was a little orclette waif in a corner, her  threadbare shift the only thing between her and nakedness. Rough old Sergeants-at-arms and Bosuns sat staring into their pints with tears welling in their usually dry eyes. The girl finished her song and stood staring at the ground, surrounded by silence.

“Come sit with me by the fire, lass!”, boomed out a rough voice from a figure gnarled like an oak by time and weather. “Come sit and drink with old Shugga, little lady!”.

The girl timidly stepped over to the sailor's side, still staring at the ground and wringing the hem of her garment.

“Woss yer name, gal?”, he growled with as tender a tone as he could muster. “Is you of marriageable age?”

The girl stammered, then whispered out: “Lilith Malone, soirr. I'm sixteen, soirr.”

“Ah, old enough then – boggy, are yer?”, he spoke over the rising noise as normal business continued.

“Yes soirr, beggin your pardon soirr”, she muttered into her breast.

“Ah, I don't hold that agin yer, gal. Lovely set o' pipes yev got on yer, lass. Come sit on me knee, drink a draught, and tell me some more...”.

- { - } -

The following morning, Lieutenant Miklúg FizzBang stood bleary-eyed and cold by the dockside. Not long before, he had been roused from his drunken stupor by a normally unflappable Sergeant Winstorc in a state of excitement.

“Sommat 'orrible, sah! Never seen the like, sah!”

“What are you blathering about, orc!”, snapped the tired and emotional officer.

“Terrible death, sah! Down by the docks, sah!”

“There are always terrible deaths down by the docks! Why the deuce have you woken me to tell me this?”

“Begging yer pardon, sah! But you is the Duty Hofficer, sah! And this ain't no usual Tar with a knife in his belly, sah!”

So the pair were stood looking down at what appeared to be an overdone hog roast, until you saw the orc features on the dried out body of what had probably started as a Jorc Tar before something really strange had happened to him. The soldiers who originally found him had tried to move the body – and one of the legs had turned to powder in their hands.

The Lieutenant ran his rum-sodden eyes over the remains, trying to find some inspiration and also to keep down the breakfast which he had yet to eat. Being an orc, he was not prone to emotion or any feeling of sympathy, but there was something disturbing about this body. Ideas started to flap around his head like noisy ravens; had this Tar been burned by some chemical, or were they dealing with a Vampyre from the Witchlands? Could it be some new weapon being used by a Ferach agent, or perhaps even some Wild Magyck? Without looking up, he barked out:

“Sergeant – go find out from all of His Monstrosity's vessels and shore facilities in the port whether they are missing any Tars, then roust out any stop-overs from the pubs and brothels. Our pile of dust here will be the one that isn't either at his station or sleeping it off in a whore's bed. Once we know who he was, then we may have some idea of who or what killed him. Now – before you go – have we still got that Alchemist in the brig?”

“Mad Ole Henry, sah? Begging pardon sah, but what would you want wiv 'im?”

“Just answer the question, Sergeant!”

“Yes sah! Yes, we do have that old goat on charges of 'Aving An Hoffensive Manner, Drunk In Charge Hof A Newt, Possession Hof An Hoffensive Wife, Loiterin' Wiv Intent To Use A Pentagram, and Failure To Cease Chanting Hunder Orders From An Hofficer. Lieutenant Corcstairs brung 'im in yesterday, sah!”

“Well get someone to bring him to me forthwith, Sergeant, then proceed with the rest of my orders! Now, where can I get some hair of the dog...”

- { - } -

Around an hour later,  Lieutenant FizzBang – fortified with bacon, eggs and rum – sat behind his desk staring at a wizened little orc stood before him. The ragged suit which the prisoner wore – once probably a stylish item – was filthy and burned. His scrawny neck was holding up his jug-eared head with an oversized, ratty top hat perched upon it. His twitching, oddly stained fingers hovered in front of his body and in front of his manacled wrists. FizzBang looked down at the document in front of him.

“Henry Hews, otherwise known as Mad Old Henry, you are – I believe – some form of Wild Magyck practitioner?”

“No Sir!”, intoned the prisoner in his lilting Mountain Orc accent. “I'm a Parafinian Philosopher not a student of the Dark Arts, Sir!”

“Hmm – well, you are just another breed of arsonist as far as I'm concerned, but I have some questions for you!”

“Sir?”

“A strange occurrence has occurred in Port Bristle – last night a Jorc Tar was burned to death without any sign of fire around him...”

“Well, I could hardly have caused that!”, interjected Henry.

“Of course you couldn't”, the Lieutenant continued. “You were in our cells. I just want to know if you could have done something like that?”

He gave Henry what he thought was a friendly grin, although the prisoner jumped and rolled his eyes.

“Look you – I'm not giving you a confession for a crime that I know nothing about!”, he exclaimed whilst rattling his manacles.

FizzBang held up his hand and spoke calmly in the face of his raging prisoner.

“I am not looking for a confession. I know that you didn't do this, but... I am struggling to understand what happened to our Tar, and... I believe that you could help with this enquiry?”.

“Still sounds like a typical Albion set-up to me, boyo!”.

“Henry! Henry! If you help me with this investigation then I will withdraw all the current charges against you.”

The prisoner sniffed in response.

“Plus I shall write you a personal letter of commendation...”

“Hmmph!”

“And give you a bottle of Ferach miruvoré?”

“Done! Any chance that you could remove these charm bracelets, Lieutenant?”, he replied while holding forth his chained wrists.

At that point came a loud knock on the door, followed by the entrance of Sergeant Winstorc with a clatter of pounding boots.

“Sah! Permission to report, sah!”

“Yes, Sergeant?”, sighed FizzBang.

“Have found out who was that burned Tar, Sah!”

“And who was he, Sergeant?”

“Bosun Shugga Oldport, from the Wyvern, Sah! There is an Hofficer of that ship downstairs to see you, Sah!”

- { - } -

It was a peculiar vignette to be sure; arrayed around a large table which presumably came from a butcher's shop, given the stains and notching, stood FizzBang, Henry, a naval surgeon named Dorkins, and Mishipsorc the Dishonourable Percy Urukhaitwistle (of the North Mordor Urukhaistwistles, dontcha know!). On the table lay the remains of Shugga Oldport, concerning which the slightly inebriated Dorkins was discoursing.

“Examination shows that the cadaver is in a state of dessication...”, he spouted. “That is to say it is almost completely dry”.

“So it was some sort of vampyre, then?”, FizzBang queried. “Ruddy Witchlanders to blame!”.

“Er, I can hardly hold myself an expert on such matters, but as far as I am aware, vampyres just drain the blood through a puncture wound into a major blood vessel”, Dorkins replied. “However, this orc has no obvious major wounds and the fluid loss is much more general”.

“Can't say that we were close, but Bosun Oldport was a normal sort of orc – I don't recall him doing anything like this before, at least!”, exclaimed Urukhaitwistle, apparently in an attempt to help proceedings.

“Well - you'd hardly do this twice, would you, boyo?”, came Henry's sarcastic comment as he looked at the corpse through his pince-nez. “Looks like our friend here ran into a practitioner of the Dark Arts to me! Find out if he annoyed any witches or warlocks and you've got your killer, I'd say! Not that you'd want to try and arrest someone who could do this, of course”.

“Henry – the nearest to a warlock that we know of round here is you, so that is not really helpful...”, replied FizzBang. “So we know that it was not a vampyre, and as Henry was in custody at the time we can rule him out too...yes, Dorkins?”

“But if he was that powerful a mage, then perhaps he could have got out of the brig, killed the deceased and got back in without you knowing? In fact, this could all be a prelude to him killing the rest of us! That's it – I'm getting out of here!”.

With that, Dorkins strode out of the room. The other three shook their heads and muttered.

“Good bleddy riddance!”.

“Quite, Midshipsorc. Now perhaps we can continue”, said FizzBang. “Do you have any idea of his last whereabouts?”.

“Dorkins? He was just here”.

“No – I meant the corpse, and before he died, not after...”.

“Oh – can't be completely sure, but most of his type drink at the Jolly Kraken, I believe? Not sure that I can be of much more use to you here, old chap. Best get off to complete the paperwork, dontcha know!”.

With that, he left FizzBang and Henry to their inquiry.

“Sergeant!”, FizzBang yelled to the forgotten Winstorc by the door. “Go down to the Jolly Kraken and find out whether our boy was in there last night, and who he was with!”.

- { - } -

Once Winstorc had left, Henry sighed, scratched his chin and said;

“You asked me to give my Professional Opinion on this body here, didn't you? Well in my Professional Opinion, he wasn't burnt at all – in fact it looks more like the opposite to me!”.

“Opposite?”, the increasingly confused FizzBang asked.

“Frozen, almost. You see, back where I come from it can get very cold on the mountains in winter, and sometimes an orc gets stuck out in a blizzard. Sometimes they lose a finger or a hand to the cold – and sometimes it kills them. But they tend to look a bit dried out, and I've heard that some of the Ferach in the Witchlands get a bit worse than that. Not saying that I've worked out what happened here, but looks to me like something very, very cold indeed happened to this boyo!”.

- { - } -

A few hours later, Winstorc returned to report.

“Have que-hestioned landlord hand staff at the Jolly Kraken, sah! The victim was there last night, sah! Happarently left wiv' ha young boggie orclette, sah!”.

“Very good, Sergeant. So do we know where this orclette is?”.

“Hin the cells dahn-stairs, sah! Thought that you might like to que-hestion 'er yourself, sah!”.

“Excellent! This is all rather exciting, isn't it, Sergeant?”, he asked rhetorically. “Let us go downstairs and interview the girl!”.

A few moments later, FizzBang stood in one of the dingy cells looking at the obviously frightened orclette.

“What is your name, girl?”.

“Lilith Malone, soirr, beggin' your pardon soirr”, she whispered whilst wringing the hem of her shift and staring at the dirt floor. “Oi haven't done nuthin', soirr...”.

“I'll be the judge of that, Lilith, but I very much doubt that you could have committed the crime which I'm currently investigating...”.

“What croime, soirr?”.

“I'll ask the questions, young orcling! Now were you with a certain Bosun Shugga Oldport last night, eh?”.

“That I was, soirr”.

“And where did you go with him after the Jolly Kraken?”.

“Oi didn't go nowhere wid 'im, soirr...”, she stammered, looking about the floor.

“Don't give me that – I know that you're a whore and that...”.

“Oi'm not a whore, soirr”.

“What? I'm not trying to charge you over that – if we arrested every street orclette in Port Bristle we'd have the cells full and the Tars rioting. All I want from you is where you took him, and where and when you last saw him – understand?”.

“Oi'm not a whore, soirr, and Oi didn't go anywheres wid 'im, soirr!”.

“So what did you do with him?”.

“Oi was in de pub, singin' me little song what I wrote wid me Mammy, soirr. Den dat Shugga fella called me over an' gave me a bite to eat an' a cup of rum while Oi sat on 'is knee, soirr...”.

“Go on – what happened next?”.

“Oi don't roightly know, soirr...dat rum was a bit strong for me, and Oi fell roight asleep after, soirr... den Oi woke up out da back o' de pub, and...”, she was now in floods of tears as she choked out her story. “Da worstest part is dat me necklace was pinched!”.

FizzBang was not accomplished at dealing with almost hysterical teenage orclettes, and made vague  motions to hug her without actually getting too close.

“Now, now, my dear – I'm sorry to hear that, but something much more important than your necklace being stolen happened last night, I'm afraid. Your friend was killed, and you seem to be the last person we know that saw him. Are you sure that you don't recall anything?”.

With a loud sniff, Lilith lifted her chin for the first time and looked straight into FizzBang's face with her eyes red and streaming. He was surprised to see that there was more steely resolve than fear in her visage.

“Oi don't know nuttin' about dat, soirr!”.

- { - } -

After the interview, the Lieutenant decided on a plan of action. He was sure that Lilith was hiding something, but he doubted that interrogating her or holding her in the cell would help. So he let her go, with Corporal Fentemple trying his best to follow her discreetly in an ill-fitting sailor's uniform. Perhaps she would lead him to the killer?

With that organised, FizzBang decamped to the Mess for the evening to get roaring drunk. It had been quite a day!

- { - } -

The pounding at his door seemed to match that in his head as Miklúg FizzBang awoke the next morning. Blearily waking from a dream about cheese, he bellowed at his noisy awakener.

“What!”.

“Permission to report, sah!”, bellowed back Sergeant Winstorc. “Developments, sah!”.

“Has Corporal Fentemple found the killer?”.

“Yes, sah!”.

“So is he here to report to me?”.

“No, sah! 'E's dead, sah!”, the Sergeant replied in his level, emotionless way. “Same way as the other fella, sah!”.

FizzBang pinched and slapped himself repeatedly in case this was just a nightmare, but he was pretty sure that this was real, Still a nightmare, but real.

- { - } -

Once again, FizzBang and Winstorc stood looking at a dried up corpse. But this time they knew who it had been, and they were also joined by Henry.

“Pretty grim, eh boyo?”, he chirped. “Looks like we have ourselves a serial killer!”.

“You mean that you think a baker did this?”, asked the bemused Lieutenant.

“No, boyo! I mean that we have someone killing in a regular style and manner. Like that Jorc the Ripper back in Londinium a few years ago?”.

“Ye gods, I hope not! They never did find out who he was, despite Prince Lúrz and his personal surgeon always being on hand to help. Good job that the killing stopped after His Horrorness died in that freak accident with his knife collection, eh? Still no real clues as to who the culprit was – do you think that he has moved over here to 'set up shop' with a new act, Henry?”.

The old mountain orc rolled his eyes and smiled sarcastically.

“No, I don't think that it is him – just that someone else has lost the plot and started killing people with their own trademark style”.

“Hmm – you might be right, old boy – and these two killings certainly aren't unrelated, are they? So has anyone seen that Lilith Malone, Sergeant?”.

“Yes, sah! She was sleepin' hin this very yard, sah!”.

“So where is she now, Sergeant?”, he fumed.

“Scarpered, sah! Got two o' me best after 'er, sah!”.

“Bring her to me when you catch her, then. Meanwhile let's convene for a working breakfast at yon public establishment, eh team? Feeling rather dry for some reason!”.

- { - } -

“So far we have a dead tar, last seen with our orclette in the Jolly Kraken the night before last. Where exactly was that body found, Sergeant?”, FizzBang asked over his fried breakfast and beer.

“Hengemount Street, sah!”, Winstorc said while eating and attempting to sit at attention.

“Which is the one running from the dock and past the pub, am I right?”.

“Yes, sah!”, shouted the Sergeant, spitting egg over the table.

“So Lilith says that she awoke in the pub yard, and our first victim was found just up the street. Next, Corporal Fentemple – presumably during the course of his observations – found himself in Gharza's Yard, where Lilith was found this morning and he also presumably met his killer there with her”.

“So what are you saying, boyo? Do you think she lured him there to his horrible death?”, chipped in Henry.

“Yes – I think that she is the accomplice to our murderer. She lures the victims, who would hardly expect trouble from her, into an encounter with someone nasty and evil. Pretty sure about that, but can't think of a motive or suspect at the moment. Maybe we'll learn something more from her, but I have some doubt that she'll tell on someone who can do a thing like that to a full-grown orc...”.

He tailed off as a pair of orc soldiers walked into the pub and came over to their table. One, whom he recognised as Corporal O'Shazbag, saluted him whilst the other – a private – stood with a sack slung over his shoulder.

“Corporal O'Shazbag reportin', sir! We've got the wee thing in the bag, so we have”, the Corporal stated, before sucking his teeth and continuing. “Bit of a hellcat, so she is. Had to apply a wee bit of Private Angmar's fists to her wee head to get her to come quietly, so we did”.

“Seems pretty quiet now, Corporal?”.

“Aye, I should say that she'll sleep for a wee while yet, sir. Don't think that she's badly damaged, but youse may want to give her an hour or two, for sure?”.

“Thank you, Corporal. Take her back to the cells and clean her up a bit. Feed her when she wakes, and I'll interrogate her later. You go back with them and supervise, Winstorc. Another drink, Henry?”.

- { - } -

Later that morning, FizzBang was once again in a cell with Lilith Malone. Only this time she sat on the bed glaring straight at him with the only eye that she could open. The left side of her face was swollen and bruised in a testament to Private Angmar's pugilistic ability. Winstorc brought him in a chair, and the Lieutenant sat facing her.

“You are in a lot of trouble, youngling! We know that you are working with the killer, and you could well hang for that, but just tell us who they are and we might be able to lessen your charge. What can you tell me?”.

“Oi've done nuthin'!”, she spat.

“I sincerely doubt that, and the more you hold out the less inclined I am to go easy on you. I'm sorry about how my soldiers handled you, but you were running from the scene of a crime. That doesn't exactly tie in with a plea of innocence, does it?”.

“Oi've had worse beatin's, and Oi've done nuthin'!”.

“As I've already said, you are in a lot of trouble, girl!”.

“Oi've already said dat Oi've done nuthin', and if me Mammy was here you'd be in big trouble yesself!”.

“Would you really rather swing from the gallows tree rather than tell me who you're working with? Do you really want to die?”.

“Oi ain't gonna die – me Mammy'll take care o' me!”.

“Well, unless she is a top-notch lawyer, I can't see what she can do for you. Best help yourself out of this one, Lilith. Only you can!”.

With Lilith sitting clench-jawed and silent on the bed, FizzBang stood, shook his head and carried the chair out.

“Tough little bleeder, but looks like we'll send her to the noose before she talks, Sergeant!”.

- { - } -

“So here is the plan; as the only lead that we have to the killer is Lilith, and she is in a cell, we shall keep watch tonight in case our killer comes to try and rescue her or shut her up permanently. Either way this might be our only chance before they kill again. We need to maintain a guard and watch on her cell at all times – Henry?”. FizzBang noticed that the old orc was about to speak.

“Just wanted to let you know my latest finding, boyo. Look at this:”. He dropped onto the table a cheap brass necklace set with semi-precious stones.

“Discovered it this morning in the hand of our first victim. Looks like he was clutching it when he died, doesn't it?”.

“So how did you think to look there?”, asked FizzBang. “Must be the necklace that Lilith mentioned?”.

“Well, actually I just brushed against his hand with my coat tail and the fist crumbled. The necklace dropped out and I had a look, really!”, he grinned a gap-toothed leer. “More interesting is that it appears to have some residual magic. Can't really tell what, but there was some enchantment on this bauble!”.

“Hmm – I'll try to get some information out of Lilith about it. Good work, Henry!”.

“Actually, I was hoping to use it in a little experiment of my own, boyo?”, he leered again – presumably thinking it a winning smile. “Tonight I intend to carry out a scrying”.

“I really don't want the details of your private life, old boy!”.

“No – it is a magical method for finding things, people and places. I think that this necklace has something to do with our killer, and if I can establish a link to them, then we have them! Can only do the ritual at night, and it will take me a little while to set up, but if I'm right then tonight we shall know for certain the identity of our killer!”.

“Good show! Can I take the necklace with me to interview Lilith again?”.

“Certainly, but I need it back for the ritual. I'm off to prepare now”.

“Well, if she cracks beforehand then we won't need to, but yes, please do!”.

- { - } -

FizzBang walked into the cell again to confront Lilith.

“Recognise this?”, he asked as he waved the necklace at her.

“Dat's moine – gimme!”, she shrieked. “Me Mammy gave me dat to wear all da toime and ta keep me safe! Dat belongs to me! Gimme dat now!”.

She made a lunge for the tawdry necklace, but the Lieutenant held it out of her reach.

“Not so fast! I'm giving you nothing. So why is this so important to you?”.

“Oi tole ya! Dat was from me Mammy! Gimme!”.

She was beating her little fists on FizzBang's chest and belly with no apparent effect, while screeching like a banshee.

“Some sort of witch, your mother?”, he continued. “Magical talents?”.

“Of course me Mammy's magic, but she ain't no witch, an' Oi ain't no whore, an' Oi ain't done nuthin'!”.

“So you won't tell me the secret of this necklace, then?”.

“Dere ain't no secret, ya ejit ya! Tis just a present from me Mammy, an' Oi promised ta keep it always. Give it back now!”. At this point she burst into tears.

FizzBang left the cell with the necklace, pondering the progress of the case. Outside stood O'Shazbag and Angmar, smoking pipes and joking. They came to attention as he approached.

“Keep your eyes and ears on her, lads. I expect something to happen tonight!”.

He set off to find Henry.

- { - } -

The old orc was in the upstairs storeroom with a pile of books, some candles and items which Miklúg FizzBang did not have the vocabulary to describe. As the Lieutenant entered, Henry looked up from drawing a pattern on the floor with chalk.

“What are you doing, old boy?”.

“Look see, I'm drawing a pentagram for the ritual. Got to be very careful how you do this – position, time, alignment. Even the slightest cock-up could have disastrous consequences, boyo!”.

“Why didn't you mention that before – you didn't say anything about disastrous consequences!”.

“You didn't ask, did you? Anyway – you can't make a brain stew without breaking heads, can you?”.

“Well – here is the necklace. When can you perform the ritual?”.

“In about two hours, give or take. Need a couple of astral measurements to absolutely confirm it, though”.

“I shall leave you to it, then!”, called out the Lieutenant, who was starting to feel slightly useless.

- { - } -

About two hours later, whilst FizzBang was pacing outside Lilith's cell with an impassive Private Angmar standing at ease opposite the door, the curious – even comical – figure of Henry Hews stood in his pentagram. Wearing an off-white robe and hat, both apparently made from flour sacks, he lit the last of the carefully positioned candles, cleared his throat and began to enunciate the words of the ritual while holding the necklace in one hand.

As he got about half-way through reading out the strange words, it was as if the room around him became pitch black. The candles were either snuffed out or invisible to him. As he neared completion, a foggy patch of light appeared before him, gradually increasing in size. Within it he started to make out a dark shape forming. As he finished the chant, the image snapped into a weird focus.

He saw a shifting bulk which scintillated and had an appearance part liquid, part vapour, but not quite of either. Despite not having any discernible face or features, Henry got a strong feeling of malice and anger. Even worse – he also got the feeling that it was looking at him! Suddenly the shape flowed towards him, and he let out a half-hearted scream as it approached.

For a brief instant, as the thing enveloped him, he had one of his theories proved right as an intense feeling of cold accompanied the removal of virtually all the moisture in his frail little body.

- { - } -

Three floors down, the sound of Henry's scream was barely audible, but a highly-strung Lieutenant FizzBang heard it anyway. He tensed and started for the guardroom as something which looked to him like a giant jellyfish floating in the air, dropped through the ceiling and straight onto Angmar. There was a brief groan from the doomed orc soldier, a short pulsation in the being, then the dessicated corpse of Private Angmar toppled to the ground and shattered into dust. FizzBang screamed and ran.

As he reached the guardroom door, he risked a glance back and saw that the thing had passed through the cell door to Lilith. He heard her shout out “Mammy!” in delight before the cell door exploded outwards. He dived through the doorway and straight into Sergeant Winstorc, who was heading in the opposite direction.

They were both still on the floor when another explosion sounded from the passageway outside the cells. Picking themselves up, they stepped gingerly through the doorway. A roughly circular hole had been made in the wall, and apparently Lilith and her “Mammy” had passed through this and out of the building.

- { - } -

Three orc soldiers sat morosely around a brazier with a small keg of rum. Lieutenant FizzBang sipped his drink and stared into space. Sergeant Winstorc sat at attention, with regular swigs from his cup, while Corporal O'Shazbag was the first to speak.

“Tis a desperate way to go, so it is, but on the bright side at least we dinnae have to dig graves for those fellas? Angmar is just a pile of dust anyways, and I was thinking of giving wee Henry a kick to make him the same. Just need us a broom and we could deal with the funeral arrangements, so we could?”.

“Quite”, muttered FizzBang. “But we still have the situation that we've lost two of our unit, and the killer remains  at large. We couldn't even keep a young waif in custody, and I have no idea how to make my report on this...”.

“Begging your pardon, sir, but perhaps I could make a wee suggestion or two?”.

“Carry on – I'm glad that someone has some ideas left!”, snorted the Lieutenant.

- { - } -

Later that morning, Lieutenant FizzBang and Sergeant Winstorc were stood outside a warehouse looking up at the roof. From this roof, a trapped Lilith Malone was hurling random detritus and insults at all in range. FizzBang made another attempt to talk to her:

“Lilith? Ow!”, he yelped. “I just want to talk to you and your, err, Mammy”.

“We don'ts want to talk to ya, ya ejit!”, she shrieked back as she threw a slate that narrowly missed his head.

“I've got your necklace and some food. I'm just going to put them down here in the street, then we will back off to let you come down and get them. Agreed?”

A non-commital grunt was her only response. FizzBang took this as a positive, and theatrically placed a plate of bread and cheese on the ground, together with her necklace.

“Right – back off to the end of the street, orcs!”, to his assembled soldiery.

They moved back and watched as nothing happened for about ten minutes. Then a furtive Lilith scaled down from the roof, moved towards the plate and necklace, then squatted down beside it. All the time scanning the surrounds for any movement by the soldiers.

“Do we nab 'er now, sah!”, asked Winstorc.

“No Sergeant! Stick to the plan – I don't want any more of my team turned to dust by her bally protector. Especially me!”

“Oh, the wee bog demon wouldnae come out in the sunlight, sir”, chimed in O'Shazbag. “They're awful fussy about losing their water, so they are?”

“What was that, Corporal?”, the Lieutenant shouted. “Do you mean that you know what that thing is?”

“She ain't a thing, she's me Mammy!”, shouted back Lilith from down the street.

“Aye, sir. I didnae realise that you didnae know?”, answered the Corporal. “Don't ye have bog demons where ye come from, sir?”

“No, Corporal, we don't!”, he blustered. “So what is a bog demon, then?”

“Well, ye met one last night, so you did”, the NCO added helpfully. “I've never heard of one outside a bog, to be sure, but they are powerful wee spirits in their own way. They need moisture all of the time, and if they don't get it from the air and ground then they take it from plants, people and animals, so they do! When bogs dry out a wee bit, 'tis a grand time to cut turf, but a wee bit dangerous too, for sure!”

“So you knew this all the time, Corporal, but failed to inform me?”

“Well, as I said, I didnae know ye didnae know, sir. But to be honest ye'd hardly expect a bog demon in a city, to be sure. They like their quiet wee bogs, so they do!”

“Mammy hates dis place, but she came to help me!”, shouted Lilith in answer.

FizzBang looked back down the street, to see that the orclette had climbed back up to her roof, where she sat eating the food. The necklace was around her neck. He slowly walked towards her – hands out to his sides and open. He attempted a reassuring conversational tone, which almost worked.

“Ah, Lilith! I just want to talk to you about...”

“Away wid ya, ya ejit!”, she screeched back. “Oi don't want ta talk to ya!”

“I just want to talk to you about your 'Mammy', Lilith”, he continued. “What does she actually want?”

“She wants me ta be happy!”

“And are you happy?”, which was quickly answered by a piece of bread crust bouncing off his forehead.

“Of course not, ya ejit! Why d'ya tink dat oi was happy?”

“Well what would make you happy?”, he asked before she screeched again and threw a roof slate at him. He ducked back into cover with Corporal O'Shazbag.

“If I can make a suggestion, sir?...”

- { - } -

That evening, a party of orc soldiery made its way cautiously into a swampy grove of trees just north of the city. Led by Lieutenant FizzBang, they included Sergeant Winstorc, Corporal O'Shazbag and four privates. One of the privates was a beefy young Bog Orc with a brainless expression and grin. Dressed in a garish lilac frock coat and leather trousers, with his curly hair waxed into a rough quiff. Clutching a bunch of flowers rather than the Bessies carried by the other rankers, he whistled some sort of tuneless air as they marched along.

“Be quiet, O'Korg!”, snapped FizzBang. “Do you want us to be heard?”

“But Oi taught dat we was here ta meet da girl an' her Mudda, soirr?”, replied the always confused-looking Porridge O'Korg. “Don't dey already know dat we're here?”

“Shut up, Private!”, blustered the Lieutenant. “If I tell you to stop whistling, then you stop whistling!”

O'Korg stopped whistling at once. The grove seemed to breathe restlessly.

“So who is makin' dat music, den soirr?”, asked the grinning private.

“What music, you stupid orcling?”

“Well, the wee tune that is whistling in the wind, sir?”, answered Corporal O'Shazbag.

“There is no tune and no wind, Corporal!”

“I have to disagree with ye, sir. There is a sweet wee tune on the wind, so there is?”

FizzBang looked askance at Winstorc, who shook his head and shrugged in reply.

“Have you two been drinking?”, the Lieutenant demanded of the two bog orcs.

“No sir!”

“No soirr!”, they both chimed.

“Twas down by de stream dat Oi foirst met my love,

With his sword in his hand, and his face caked with blood.

Oi asked him if he had just fought in a war,

For his body was bruised and his clothes were all tore.

Said he; No my dear, Oi'm just on da run,

Coz Oi robbed auld Lord Snooty and bumped off his son.

Oh come live with me den, was my warm retort,

For who could resist such a murderous orc?”

Lilith Malone stood in the trees before them, singing softly. The air seemed thicker and brooding around her.

“Hello Lilith”, FizzBang spoke slightly nervously. “Is your, err, Mammy here?”

“She's right here beside me, ya ejit! Didn't ya hear her singin'?”

“Err, no – sorry!”, he replied. “Erm, there is one thing that I wanted to ask you, Lilith? I can't quite work out how your Mammy gave, err, birth to you?”

“She's me Mammy, not me Mammy, ye ejit!”, she snorted contemptuously. “Oi was dumped in de bog as a babe, but Mammy took care of me!”

“Oh! Quite! Well, anyway, to business!”

“Mammy sez is it de fella wid de pink coat what is after me hand?”, she asked with her head tilted slightly to one side, and avoiding looking at O'Korg.

“Yes, may I present Porridge O'Korg, late of the 1st Dubloon Foozileers.”

“What was he late fer?”, Lilith asked.

“No, he was a soldier in the 1st Dubloon Foozileers, but now I've discharged him so that he can marry you”, FizzBang explained.

“Marry me?”, snorted Lilith. “Mammy sez dat we're a long ways from dat. If you've brought de money, den Mammy sez dat he can start to court me, but no touchin' or nuttin' until she sez so!”

FizzBang nodded to Sergeant Winstorc, who held forth a jingling cloth bag. Lilith looked from the bag to FizzBang, who nodded towards it. She reached out and grabbed the bag, shaking it and then looking inside.

“Seems alroight to me an' Mammy”, she said soon after. “He can come over an' talk to me now, but only in front of Mammy an' youse fellas!”

“Pleased to make yer acquaintance, Miss Malone, Mrs Malone”, started the slightly sheepish O'Korg. “Oh, Oi'm sorry dere! Oi taught dat you was married dere, Miss Malone – Oi mean de udder Miss Malone...”

Lilith smirked at his awkwardness.

“What is he on about?”, FizzBang asked his two NCOs under his breath.

“Dunno, sah!”, stage-whispered Winstorc.

“Miss Malone senior is giving the wee fella a hard time, so she is!”, Corporal O'Shazbag laughed gently. “She sort of reminds me of my Aunt Jezzy, so she does”

“So am I to understand that you boggies can hear the Bog Demon talking, Corporal?”

“Would seem so, sir. Hearing her loud and clear, so we are!”

O'Korg had nervously handed the bunch of flowers to Lilith, who now stood in front of him staring at the ground and simpering.

“Lilith, if dere is any diggin', liftin' or foightin' to be done, den Oi'm yer orc!”, the young bog orc declared. “Oi can work all day an' not get toired!”

“Oh, Mr O'Korg, Oi'm sure dat me an' me Mammy can foind plenty o' work for dose brawny arms of yers. She says dat ya can come back for tea tomorra, as long as ya bring de Ulcer fella dere as chaperone!”

“Roight y'are, Lilith! Oi'll just go an' ask de Corporal now!”

FizzBang turned to Corporal O'Shazbag, who replied before being asked.

“It appears that Miss Malone senior requests my presence tomorrow evening, sir. May I have your permission to attend?”

“Of course, Corporal! These negotiations are highly important – you may indeed escort young O'Korg to court young Lilith”.

- { - } -

Some weeks later, O'Shazbag stood to attention in front of Lieutenant FizzBang's desk. An unopened envelope lay on the desk where the Corporal had placed it.

“What is this, Corporal”, asked FizzBang suspiciously. “You've already made your report on the Malone affair. So why are you giving me this?”

“Sir, as ye well know I've been escorting young O'Korg to his regular visits with the Malones, and the two youngsters are getting along famously, so they are!”

“Yes, and we haven't had any more dried up corpses turning up either – what else are you trying to tell me?”

“Well, my re-enlistment comes up next month, sir, and I've decided to give notice to quit the service, so I have. Personal reasons, sir, which I hope that ye'll understand?”

“Personal reasons, Corporal”, the Lieutenant raised an eyebrow as he spoke. “I've never known you take any interest in your family, and given your help with the recent case I was going to recommend a promotion for you. Are you sure that you want to leave?”

“That is very decent of you, sir, so it is. Although all that I did was to suggest offering up young O'Korg as a match for Miss Lilith. The thing is that...Teki, I mean Miss Tekelili Malone, so I do, has made it known to me that she would be agreeable to my pressing my suit, so she would”.

“What has your suit got to do with anything, Corporal?”, asked a bemused FizzBang. “I didn't even know that you had one?”

“No, sir, I mean that myself and Miss Tekelili are considering getting married. So after many years of service, I'd like to resign and go back home to Guinelia with her, so I would”.

“Marry? Her? Ye gods! What? Why? How?”

“Oh, to be sure she is a wee handful when she's upset, but I'm not getting any younger meself, and you know, sir, I think that we could be happy together, so I do!”

 “Well, Corporal, I question your judgement and sanity, but of course I will let you go. Especially as it means that the bog demon is unlikely to come back here. Dismissed, Corporal O'Shazbag, and good luck!”

O'Shazbag saluted, turned and marched out. FizzBang reached into his desk for the bottle of rum, and poured himself a cupful. It had been a challenging time, and he was looking forward to a bit of “normal” work after all that. He hoped that he wouldn't require Corporal O'Shazbag's help again, given his imminent departure. His idea of “volunteering” the dim young Porridge O'Korg to woo Lilith Malone had been a masterpiece; the private had been told that he would receive full pay while he worked “under cover” as her lover. He'd jumped at the chance, plus it actually seemed that the young orcs liked each other well enough. As to why O'Shazbag was courting the bog demon, he shuddered to think.

As he was deep in reverie, there was a loud bang on his door, followed by the clattering of Sergeant Winstorc's boots as he approached.

“Terrible death, sah! Down by the docks, sah!”

- FIN -

Webmaster's Notes

This story was written exclusively for Orcs in the Webbe and was first published on the 7th December 2014 as part of it's 2014 Advent Calendar.

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