Chapter 3: Wake the Dead

"So what can I do for you sir?" Marrik asked as someone approached the counter. It was then he saw the man's face and smiled. "Ah, you again. How's your friend holding up, better?"

The man sat a dark wooden case on Marrik's counter, "Yea, they said it was a fungus that grew in the tunnels under Star city. Nothing they can't clear up, but the stuff he's having to vaporize and breath in to make sure it's all gone is just." The man's face was clearly disgusted at the memory. Marrik waited and then, when the man regained his composure, watched as the case was slowly opened.

The lid opened away from Marrik, letting him have an unobstructed view of a pair of forearm length ivory colored rods. He let out a low whistle as he picked one up, slowly turning it over and over in his hands as he looked at the gold, copper, silver, and steel wire wrapped and braided decoratively along its length. As he hefted the Rod and turned it about in his hands he raised an eyebrow before picking the second rod up.

The customer watched as Marrik examined the pair. He saw Marrik close his eyes as he made a series of small motions with each before slowly setting the pair back in the case. He saw Marrik ease the lid down and latch the case closed. "Do you know what this is?"

The man nodded while fishing out a series of papers ranging from his expedition permit, notarization from the west gate precinct's customs and inspections department, and a series of photos from Star City itself.

"Why are you bringing this here?" Marrik asked as he looked from the documents to the man and when the man did not answer he spoke again. "I'm a Pawn and Acquisitions shop. I deal with what people find out there, but this?" His head shook, "I want these, you don't know how badly I want these, but I don't know if I can find a buyer I'd actually feel comfortable selling them to." The man watched Marrik swallow as he put the fingertips of his left hand on the case. "Go big or go home. Make me an offer."

"Twenty thousand." The man said with a firm voice.

"That's your number?" Marrik asked, slightly unsure of what he was hearing.

A nod, "Not a farthing less."

"Are you sure?" There was uneasiness in Marrik's voice. "You know you're likely not going to find another pair of these. I don't want you to walk away and realize what you just did."

That made the customer pause and look at the wooden case. Then he slowly exhaled, "They're not useful to me, and I wouldn't want them to just sit out where the kids could accidentally start swinging either around." A nod, as if he were only just now sure of what he was doing. "Let's do this."

"Alright," Marrik extended his right hand and the two clasped forearms. "Let's go sign some paperwork."

When the customer left, there were several customers close enough to see what had happened at the counter. One of these walked over and looked at Marrik, who at this point was barely able to keep a straight face. "Before you put them up," the woman asked in the same voice a child might ask a parent to let them see a pretty tree ornament, "Can I see them?"

A nod before Marrik opened the case, revealing both rods set in soft green fabric. The woman reached for them before stopping herself and looking to Marrik as if asking permission. When he nodded she picked one of the pair up and held it by one end. She then acted as if she were going to make a motion, then stopped, placing the rod back in the case.

"Fire Walker?" Marrik asked when the woman closed the case. She nodded then looked at him. "Friend I was in school with ended up with specialist training from them, I recognize the stance you were going to take." He reached out to pat her shoulder. "For what it's worth if you were in a better place financially I'd trust you enough to try getting you to buy."

The woman nodded slow, "Here to make a payment so yea. Probably shouldn't be window shopping." She frowned and looked to the case as Marrik took both blasting rods away. When he came back he had a folder and a sheet of paper that had a series of times, payment amounts, and signatures.

When the woman set down a stack of coins on the counter Marrik went through the process of counting them up, then offered a pen to the woman. "You're actually early on your payment this time. Keep going like this and you'll get your radio back next week."

A smile from the woman as she signed the paper, then she watched as Marrik signed his name beside hers and added the date. "Take care, alright?" He watched the woman head for the door before putting the papers away.

Hours later Sparks flew into the shop in the process of digging something out of her shoulder bag. Marrik had put the case as well as the paperwork up and sat there, waiting to see what came in the mail. "Sparks?" He asked as he took the day's messages before handing her a thick envelope. "This one's a priority I need processed and sent out today if at all possible."

"So why not close shop for ten minutes and run down to post? Outgoing left an hour ago." The mail sprite sounded slightly annoyed before making the letter fit into her shoulder bag in spite of the laws of physics dictating there wasn't space enough in one for the other to go.

"This morning I got a pair of Dresdens in." Marrik explained. "Ever since then I guess word got out and I've had people coming in just to see them, and they've all been buying stuff just to stick around."

"Wow, so... are they real?" Sparks asked, her earlier aggravation gone. "I mean. Wow, even non-working ones go for a bundle." The mail sprite saw Marrik sigh and pull the case back out and open it for her. She landed on the edge of the case and looked down at the pair. She squinted and reached out with a hand until it almost but not quite touched one. "Yea, they're real."

"You sure?" Marrik asked. Then a pause as a thought occurred to him, "Just how old are you anyway?"

"Old enough," Sparks grinned before walking along the lip of the case as if it were a balance beam. When she saw the expression on Marrik's face she started laughing. "Nah man I'm just yanking your chain. Guy sent one through the post a few years back and it kinda got passed around so we could all get a feel before sending it along. Let a lot of the newbies know what magic items felt like, and I think Frank wanted an excuse to keep it in the office for a couple hours."

"Lemme guess, threw you under the cart for the delay?" Marrik shoo'd her off the case before putting it away again.

Sparks floated behind him as he walked back to the store-room. "Nah, he took blame for the whole thing, said it was a good live materials handling excersize opportunity." More laughter, except this was cut short when she looked back at the shop's front window. "Hey Marrik?" She landed on his shoulder to getting his attention before pointing. "isn't that Danny?"

"Yea?" Marrik squinted at the man staring vacantly through the window. The hair on his arms stood on end and he felt something Other, but tried to dismiss it as he had been handling something both rare and valuable. "Hadn't seen him in awhile. He's looking kinda off." As he started for the counter he noticed Danny grunt and resume walking down the street.

"That's probably because he's been dead a week." Sparks looked on as Danny walked away "I was at his funeral along with most of Danny's shift from the office."

Marrik stood there, trying to sort out the cold pit growing in his stomach before asking, "They didn't cremate the body?" Sparks shook her head at the question, prompting him to reach under the counter for something he had never had to use before other than to practice with, "What kind of half-brained morons-" He cut off his own words while he started loading bullets into the magazine for the pistol he had just pulled out. "Look never mind go get the cops. I'll try keeping him from hurting anyone."

Marrik saw Sparks fly through the front door. Not fly, push door open, and keep going. He saw her fly as if there were no door in her way.There had been a slight pin-prickle, a sensation that felt his own magic when it was being used. As he shouldered the door open he made one last check of the gun in his hands all while looking to see where Danny went.

"Hey," Marrik called out, causing the zombie to halt, and then shuffle-step til it faced him. The street was suspiciously empty. Just the two of them there. Then he looked around, saw people looking out shop windows, saw horses and foot traffic decide to go down the next street instead. People were there, but unlike him they knew to keep clear. "Danny, c'mere man."

The zombie made an incoherent grumbling noise in its throat as it started at a slow walk towards Marrik. With it getting closer Marrik could feel the magic animating it. "Hungry," It managed to say as its eyes locked on Marrik before its mouth opened.

When it started to howl those looking on covered their ears and cowered down. Marrik took a step back and his gun raised. "There anything left of you in there Danny?" His voice quivered as he asked. "Who woke you up."

The zombie continued its howl, only to be interrupted by a pair of gunshots from the weapon in Marrik's hand. Were the zombie a living man it would have fallen over from the bullets to its chest. It stopped, looked down at the wounds and the ichor that oozed out before leaping at Marrik with outstretched arms.

More gunfire as Marrik stumbled back, grazing the Zombie's scalp and blowing its left shoulder apart. He got off a third shot, into its skull as it knocked him over. For a moment he thought it was over. Headshots, all the pamphlets and stories said, were how you got rid of the undead. Yet Marrik found himself with Danny's good hand gripping at his throat and the zombie howling into his face. Danny's grip didn't falter or weaken even as Marrik punched him in the face. More howls that were soon silenced as the skin around where Marrik punched started to grow thin, yellow, and then blacken.

Even as the zombie that had been Danny started to decay with each blow it tried to snap at Marrik, attempting to put living flesh in its jaws with the intent to consume. Each time Marrik punched the zombie Danny chipped away further, decaying slowly and by inches until an armored pair of hands grabbed Danny's zombified body from behind and hurled it off of Marrik.

Marrik saw who the arms belonged to but could only catch his breath as he saw Danny's skull cave in from the armored boot that came crashing down. Only when it was clear Danny was not going to get up again did the armored figure offer Marrik a hand. "You alright?"

More attempts at catching his breath and gathering his wits as Marrik nodded, "Freaked out, but I don't think it bit me. Anyone get hurt?" He took the offered hand and stood, looking at the zombie's remains.

The person's head shook, "So far as we can tell this zombie got out of its grave, wandered without apparent motivating force or command, Was slow enough that people got out of immediate range, and then you engaged it. Reason it did not engage in usual feeding behaviors is unclear." They explained before turning more fully to Marrik, "I'm going to have to take you in for an exam and questioning. Do you understand?"

Marrik took a deep breath as he considered what just happened now that the rush of the moment was fading and what that meant starting to settle in. "Someone raised a zombie," and if they find out he's a necromancer he's liable to take the fall.




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