Featured Item: Rekt Crowned Skull (Store)
It was getting late, with last call not far off, as the bartender, a broad shouldered man with a bald head and solid build, strolled down the bar carrying a bottle. Frank was his name, and he had a white button down shirt with an apron over top, and army surplus boots which had his black fatigues tucked in the tops. A clean white towel was draped over one shoulder. He stopped in front of the lone patron at the bar – the few other customers had chosen more intimate and private booths.
Ezekiel’s Cellar was thick with the steamy last days of summer. It gave the bar an almost otherworldly feel, as ceiling fans labored to stir the air. Something wasn’t natural about tonight, and that feeling bothered Frank a little. It was his bar, after all.
He set the bottle in front of a skinny young man with an eyepatch and a mane of soft looking brown hair pulled back in a messy tail or man-buns (Frank, being bald, had little use for such a thing). The young man’s single green eye glanced up from examining something in the leather bag on the bar. Frank studiously ignored the bag’s contents.
He grunted, “I’ll leave the bottle, and you can take it with you- you paid for it. Last call is in 30. “
With that, Frank sidled away before the young man could say a word.
Truth to tell, Raf didn’t really plan to say anything to Frank. They knew one another, as Raf had been a regular in this bar over the past year or so. But he really didn’t expect or desire conversation. He had the Bone Face, which meant he finally had the means to perhaps bargain back what had been stolen.
He examined the strange bone carefully, one he took it out. It was lined with age, with bleached spots here and there, and when he looked at the eye-holes too long, he got a strange feeling in the pit of his stomach. He usually put it away then. He had become so absorbed staring at it, that he hardly took notice when a man in a faded black jean jacket with a motorcycle logo on the back, sat down next to him. He was in his early 30s, with shoulder-length brown hair, and a goatee. Biker leathers covered black jeans, and he didn’t seem to be wearing anything but the thinnest of black ribbed T-shirts underneath that open-front jacket.
“Not something that you should have on public display,“ he said in a soft, almost amused voice. “Someone might try to take it away, especially since you seem to have been in your glass tonight.“
“Markus,” Raf voice came out raspy, not happy that the man was there. “I don’t need a lecture on how to handle my liquor or my property. “
Raf’s lips tightened into a line as he glanced up with his one captivating green eye, and narrowed it at his companion. Actually, Markus was an old acquaintance. They’d been ‘treasure hunters’ together at one time. Yeah, treasure hunters – that’s one word to call it.
Markus chuckled and said, “May I?” When Raf didn’t answer right away, the tall athletic hunter grabbed a glass, and Raf’s bottle of bourbon, and poured himself a drink. He set the bottle down, and saluted, “Here’s mud in your eye. What the hell does that even mean?” he said with a smirk, and downed the glass. He let out a soft appreciative gasp, and sat the glass down on the bar. “That’s some good stuff. Smooth. Not your usual rot-gut. “ He glanced over, his caramel brown hues meeting the single emerald eye of Raf’s.
“Ok, get on with it. What do you want, Markus? I know you’re here for a reason. “
Markus swiveled in his chair and gave Raf a once over, his handsome face nearly hiding his interest in the smaller man. Raf’s shirt was half unbuttoned, and his skin had a luster to it, with the humid air, which gifted the younger man’s skin with glow. Markus lingered on Raf a moment, before he inhaled and sighed out his teeth with a low hiss. Not enough alcohol in this bottle to get Raf back to his bedroom – at least not tonight. He said in a low voice, “Well, truth to be told, I wanted to warn you. The Painted Man is looking for you. I thought you should know. “
“Well, that’s good, because I’m looking for him, too,” retorted Raf, as he sipped at his glass of bourbon. “I’ve got something he wants, and he has something I want. “
“You think he’ll give you back your eye,” Markus asked, almost deadpan. His face grew stern and he hissed low, his voice holding a disbelief that Raf could be so naive. “He’s likely ground it up and used it for a ritual or something, like he did with the last boy with your sort of … eyes. “
Raf shook his head, resolute, “Fat lot you know, Markus. He needs both of my eyes to make that thing work, but I have an alternative now – If I trade him this,” He patted the contents of the bag. ”He won’t need the special eyes any more, with this.“
“Raf, I’m telling you, even if he gives it back to you, it won’t be your eye anymore! He’ll have it bound to himself! “
“No, I’ll make him release it to me, the way you made him give your hand back, 5 years ago. “ Raf smirked a bit, knowing he’d scored a sore spot on the other hunter.
Markus frowned and unconsciously rubbed the very thin silver scar that was over the wrist bone, on his right hand, a sign where it had been severed and perfectly restored. The hand was covered with tattoos and sigils now, like the rest of Markus’ arms.
“Yeah, and you know what I had to do to get that, don’t you? It might not be so easy this time. “
There was a subtle change in the atmosphere, and Markus drew a gun from somewhere, pivoted and leveled it at the shiny black leather coated figure of Painted Man, that had almost just materialized, seemingly, several paces behind the pair.
He was taller than Markus, and his skin was totally covered with black and white tattoos, as if his whole body were painted with bones and sigils. The Painted Man smiled broadly, a red, almost bloody mouth, glistened dully in the low light, and his long white dreadlocks trailed down to his waist, looking almost like brittle twigs. Bone rings were in his ears and nose and eyebrows, and lip, and he had eyes that were bone-white as well, like aged ivory – slightly yellowed.
He was actually quite attractive, and built like an Olympic runner. He moved with the grace of a serpent, as he gave a slight bow in mocking salute. “Well well, “ his sonorous voice said. He glanced at the two. “The right hand of the Ring, and the one-eyed boy. How sweet. Now – come- surrender The Face of God, and I will be on my way – no trouble to you two.. love birds. “ He grinned wide again, leering at Raf, and giving Markus an almost contemptuous glance.
Raf almost trembled with both excitement and fear, as he gripped the bag and shook his head, his voice coming out steady, strangely enough. “No deal, asshole. You give me back my eye – the way it used to be before you stole it.. and I’ll give you the Face.. not before. “
Markus was alert and his eyes were on the Painted Man unwaveringly and saw that the man had might well be naked maybe under the long shiny black trench. He knew something of what the voodoo man could do, and he was certain that his creatures would be lurking outside, in case they made it out one of the doors. Markus itched to grab for his hidden sword, but bided his time.
“Gods, you are so predictable, Doc,” Markus began. “I mean – you think we’d lure you here and not have taken precautions? Think about it – you don’t think I’m that stupid, do you?“
The Painted Man frowned, as he gave Markus a shrewd look. “You, Markus, are too experienced to do something so foolish. But – I think Raf is desperate,“ the villain said, with a wicked smile, as he glanced sidelong at the younger man, leering at him again, reaching into his coat pocket. Markus grabbed the hilt and tugged the blade free, and it rang in the air. Raf narrowed his eyes in anger and gripped for something inside his bag, a soft, squishy thing inside a Ziploc.
The Painted Man pulled a bottle, with something bobbing around inside – a human eyeball that shimmered with a blue light from its Iris, swimming around inside some kind of viscous fluid.
Raf gulped, and Markus narrowed his caramel eyes at the container, and then at The Painted Man. “You .. brought it.. and you just think Raf’ll take it as-is?”
“Shut up, Markus – I can talk for myself, “ Raf said through gritted teeth. “Look – I have the Bone Face, and you want it.. I want my EYE back, you bastard. “ He paused, trying to calm his voice, and breathing. Then he continued, “We trade- fair and square -and you SWEAR on your snake god that you release it to me forever, ONLY then, I’ll give you the Face. Do we have a deal?”
Frank’s meaty hand came down on Raf’s shoulder – the bartender’s eyes were missing, and his face looked skeletal, his lips and mouth covered with black and white paint. His strength was insane and Raf shouted out in pain. Markus whipped his blade down on Frank’s wrist, severing it – there was no blood, only a snick of bone- and the stout barman staggered back against the wall behind the bar, making bottles clink.
Raf bit back the pain from that crushing grip and threw the still pulsing hand away from him. He felt like some bones in his hand were broken. But he pulled out the heart that was in the bag, just as The Painted Man backhanded Markus.
Markus was thrown across the bar, and tumbled into the heap next to Frank, and the two figures were struggling to kill one another. Raf ripped the plastic open and crushed the strange and now glowing heart, and flung the glowing blood at the Painted Man. Raf shouted a word and the blood started to burn like lava on the Painted Man’s flesh, and he screamed and dropped the bottle with the eye in it.
Raf gasped, wide-eyed and made a leap for it, catching it a moment before it smashed on the floor, but it tumbled from his fingers and hit the ground, and the stopper came out. Raf almost froze, but he grabbed the eye as it wriggled out and held it in his hand, like one would hold a lightning bug in his palm, and he shouted.. “Give me back my eye, or you’ll burn, you painted bastard!”
With a snarl, The Painted Man hissed out 2 words in latin, Servite dominum.
The eye wriggled out of Raf’s hand and sped towards the eyepatch, and forced its way underneath. Raf shouted and gripped at his face, trying to tear off the patch, fearing that he’d been betrayed. The eye wiggled like a worm and forced itself back into the socket, and a sucking sound came from it, as it oriented itself. He pulled the patch away, afraid of what was happening, but when revealed – his eye felt like his eye. He felt whole for the first time in more than a year!
His body tingled with excitement, an almost sexual arousal hit him, but he swallowed and tried to refocus on what was happening. But his eye was showing him things! Strange and weird things.
He could see Frank was indeed an undead creature now, and Markus was carrying a sword from some other world. The spell he’d used on the heart blood was of the darkest magic, and he could see tendrils of oily darkness searing into the dark priest’s flesh, even as it was stretching back towards him, the one that has cast the dark spell. The dark tendrils started to wrap about his hands, and he cried out in pain, “Stop.. Stop! No!” The Painted Man burned and screamed, in unison.
Markus leaped over the bar, and his sword flared with a brilliant light, bright as the sun. He shouted and brought the blade came down on the dark tendrils and from Raf to The Painted Man, the tentacles ignited, flaring incandescent for a moment before dissolving into ash and smoke and sparks. The sword slowly dimmed as the dark magic dissipated.
Markus breathed out heavily, and slowly sheathed his sword, after looking around. He reached out and took hold of Raf’s shoulder and hauled him up, as the smaller man swallowed and looked at Markus with a respect he’d never really known he had before. “What the hell .. did you just do, Markus? “
“Hell if I know,” his companion said. “It’s just does that sometimes, when there’s really bad magic at work.“
Raf didn’t know if Markus was lying or not, but he didn’t worry about it. Markus pushed Raf against the bar, and fixed him with a stare. “Your blue eye- it’s still glowing, Raf. You might need to cover it up, or you’ll freak people out,“ he said.
Raf frowned and furrowed his brow, but he sighed, as the figure of the Painted Man shifted on the ground, opening his eyes, and narrowing them at Raf and Markus. The “Painted Man” wasn’t painted any more. He was a tall man, as before, with dark tanned skin, and handsome features, except there were places that looked like cauterized wounds all over him. “I.. I can’t feel them.. the spirits.. what did you DO to ME?” He shouted in a weak but bitter rage. The man could hardly move, he was so weak.
Markus smirked and shrugged. “I think you got your ass kicked, sonny. Now, don’t go playing around with things you don’t understand. It’ll get you hurt. “
“What about our deal, Raf, or are you a thief as well as a black mage? “ The man said.
“Deal? You tried to double cross me before we even had a deal, “ Raf said, and grabbed his pack off the bar, and hefted it, but grabbed the bottle of bourbon. “Come on Markus – let’s get out of here. We’ve got a bottle to finish. “
Markus walked up to the former Painted Man and gave him a kick to the temple, knocking the wounded man out cold. “He won’t be happy about this, and you know he’ll be coming after us later, if he ever gets his powers back,“ Markus said. “Maybe we should end it now? “
Raf shook his head, and spat on the ground, “No, that’s his style, not mine. I’ve got my eye back, and that’s all I needed. We rattled his bones, and we’ll do it again, if he tries anything. Come on.. “
Raf punched Markus in the arm and smiled. “Come on, I bet the cops’ll be here soon, and you have some explaining to do. And you can buy me breakfast – I’m starved.“
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Skull- Rekt Crowned Skull (Store)