She listened to his story. He got the feeling, before he was halfway through the first wretched chapter of his misbegotten ballad, that she’d heard it before. By the time he’d finished the first chapter, he was certain – and not that she’d heard it once. She was intimately familiar with his situation and his dilemma.
That was … a little worrying.
“Long have I wondered whether you would find me,” the Black Lotus told him. Her voice was a rasp, coarsened by hazardous concoctions and the screams they’d brought on. Made clumsy by apparent months or even years lacking another living soul to converse with. “I have thought much about this day.”
“Good,” he said. “I hope that means you’ve already given some thought to my case.”
The Black Lotus cackled. An honest-to-goodness cackle. She was nothing if not committed to her role, which was also more than a little worrying. He wasn’t sure whether it would be better to learn she was playing the part expected of her, or if this reeking, snaggle-toothed creature was a true and honest result of decades of dark science.
“How did you find me?” she asked, tilting her head dog-like. Dead things shifted and rattled in her mat of hair, which might once have been white-blonde before she took to head-butting beehives and sleeping head-down in dustbowls. Her face was scarred, burned, seamed with trauma and overlaid with grime … and yet her eyes, bloodshot and mad, stared at him with piercing intensity. They were like deep ice. Deep ice that might contain any number of frozen bodies.
“Reputation,” he said, his mouth suddenly dry.
She cackled again. “I hope I won’t let you down.”
“I’m used to disappointment. Forgive me, but,” he found, to his surprise, that he felt bashful. Something in her challenging stare made him stumble over his words. “I was expecting … well, I’m not sure what I was expecting. A jungle sage. An Atlantean. Something.”
“Ah, you expected a witch of a reputable creed?” the Black Lotus grinned hideously.
“Well with a name like ‘the Black Lotus’,” he waggled his fingers spookily and was rewarded with another mad shriek of laughter. “But you’re … a Dane? Sweoðeod? Not so much a lotus as a lily, really…”
“The Black Lily is a funerary service,” the Black Lotus confessed in a low, grudging mutter.
“Do not worry yourself,” she rallied quickly. “My reputation is well-earned. There is nothing in this world or the next that I cannot kill.”
“You heard me. There is no heart I cannot stop, no breath I cannot snatch away. No light, behind any eye, I cannot snuff out as easily as flicking off a glowbulb. There is no beast or man, no Elder or God I cannot bring to an end.
“So let us see, Sorry Çrom Skelliglyph, what the Black Lotus can do for you.”
– Posted from my Huawei mobile phone while carparkin’.