Marla Tipley stood on tiptoes, feeling around the top shelf for a jar of firenewt spines. “I know it was up here, just yesterday, I — Ah ha!” she said, pulling a green clay jar off the shelf.
“Drat!” Marla slammed the jar on the counter. “Any chance maggot tongues would work?”
Vork, cloaked in his heavy hooded cloak, despite the summer heat, shook his head.
“Doesn’t hurt to ask, does it?” Marla said, climbing on a stool to search the shelf.
Vork despised coming to Marla’s Magik Makings for his potion supplies. Not only did Marla overcharge for commonplace magical items, the shop was a disorganized mess. He preferred Petra’s Potion Emporium two towns over, but the corpse laying in his cavern wouldn’t keep in the summer heat, while he traveled there and back.
“Ah! Here we go, spine of firenewt! Somehow it ended up behind the bottle of swamprat urine,” Marla said, pulling a blue clay jar from the shelf and setting it next to the green one already on the counter.
“So let’s see. That’s one jar of firenewt spines and jar of maggot tongues,” Marla said, totaling the amounts on a pad of paper.
“Only the firenewt spines,” Vork said, pushing the maggot tongues away.
“I could have sworn you said—“
“Only the firenewt spines,” he repeated, placing a skinless hand on the blue jar.
Marla flinched seeing the hand. “Yes, of course. Just the jar of firenewt spines,” she mumbled, crossing maggot tongues off the bill of sale. “One silver.”
Vork dropped his last silver on the counter, stowed the blue jar in a pocket of his cloak, and left the shop.
“Creep,” Marla muttered, biting down on the silver coin.
Vork drifted through town, relishing the aversion people showed as he passed. Normally he would drift past the church, giving the pastor cause to pray, and by the schoolhouse, just to hear the children weep, but Vork was in a hurry.
Despite his urgency, Vork made sure to pass the Muller farm, where he stopped and whispered a short incantation. The cows lowed; inside the barn Leslie shouted, “Dammit, Vork, stop spoiling the milk!”
He whispered another incantation. The cows lowed a second time.
“Thank you, you skinless gimp!” Leslie shouted.
Vork would have smiled if he had lips and continued on. He’d visit with Leslie after resurrecting the corpse and returning it to the capital.
Up the road, he entered the woods. While walking the mile to his Cavern of Doom, he took time to enjoy the terrified silence of the birds. Simple pleasures were difficult to come by these days.
Vork’s troubles began when his Castle of Doom collapsed, several months earlier. While the townspeople whispered hell had swallowed the castle, but spit Vork back to earth, the truth was foundational water damage had caused a sinkhole to form. One evening while Vork was gathering bandit spleens by moonlight, the castle, most of his magical items, and his entire fortune had sunk into the earth.
Leslie Muller had been kind enough to let Vork stay in her home until he found the cavern in the woods.
But replacing everything he lost was costly and work had been hard to come by.
Bitter townsfolk requested minor hexes, giving Vork enough work to keep tea in the pot and bread on the table, but not enough to conduct his hellish endeavors and buy a nice cottage where he could invite Leslie Muller to dinner.
So Vork sent notices out to town boards throughout the Realm, offering competitive rates for malevolent magic and nefarious necromancy.
Vork heard somewhere alliteration sells.
He didn’t receive replies to his posts until a lucrative offer appeared on his doorstep three days earlier, followed by the corpse delivery last night.
Vork entered his cave and found the muddy potion in his cauldron had slowed to a simmer.
Vork added lilac wood to the fire and, after a few puffs from the magic bellows he had stolen from the Volcano of Shoo, the cauldron bubbled back to life.
Then Vork checked the corpse.
The corpse was overripe when it had arrived last night. Vork should have performed the spell immediately, but it was only after the corpse’s arrival Vork realized he was out of firenewt spines.
The morning’s heat had sped the body’s decay. Originally bloated and fishbelly grey, the corpse’s palor had risen to that of a sickly flan. Vork pressed a bony finger against the corpse’s stomach and found its consistency matched its color.
Vork calculated he had less than an hour before resurrection was no longer viable.
Vork wiped his flan-flesh coated finger on his robe and returned to the bubbling cauldron.
He took the clay jar of firenewt spines out of his pocket and pulled out the cork topper.
Vork dropped five firenewt spines in the cauldron. Their addition released a puff of green smoke, turning the brown brew red.
Vork began the first incantation. The lilac flames blazed up and over the cauldron and disappeared. An icy chill entered the cavern; frost formed on the walls.
Vork dipped a vial in the cauldron, filling it with the bubbling red resurrection potion.
He moved the ceremony to the corpse, chanting the second incantation, and poured the vial’s contents in the corpse’s mouth.
Then… Nothing happened.
He poked the corpse – his finger sunk to the knuckle in its flan-like side.
Possibly the firenewt spines were past their expiration date. Perhaps the corpse was no longer viable.
Or perhaps the spell needed time to work. The corpse was fairly dead.
So Vork made himself a pot of cucumber-lemongrass tea and waited to see if the resurrection would occur.
* * *
“Habeas Corpus!” the corpse shouted, jolting up from the floor. He then fell to the left and flopped aimlessly around on the floor like a fish in a dry barrel.
Vork picked up his green ceramic tea set, rinsed to pot and cup, and put them away.
Then he got his bag of traveling powder, whispered the incantation, and tossed a pinch of dust in the air between the corpse and himself.
The dust swirled and grew.
“Cloud!” the corpse shouted, as the traveling spell enveloped them both.
“Yes, cloud,” Vork muttered, as they disappeared from the cavern.
“What is the meaning of this?” Senator Wallpot shouted at the two men who suddenly appeared in the center of her office. One could have been the grim reaper while the other flopped helplessly on the floor.
“Justice Briff!” Senator Wallpot said, recognizing the flopping guest.
“Stare decisis!” the judge shouted, before rolling over and vomiting a pile of maggots out on the carpet.
“He… doesn’t look like himself,” the Senator said, looking down at the bloated, flan-like justice, who was currently picking through the pile of maggots.
“His coloring will improve with time. As for the rest of it…” Vork shrugged.
“I need to get him in his seat before the Queen nominates a replacement. Otherwise Justice Briff can no longer hold his seat on the high court,” the Senator said.
“Resurrection is dicey. You get, what you get,” Vork replied.
“Argle bargle!” Justice Briff screamed.
“Yes… well I suppose he’s already sounding more like himself,” the Senator chuckled. “And political beggars can’t be choosers. As promised, here is your payment,” Senator Wallpot pulled a sack of silver from her desk drawer and handed it to the wizard.
In exchange, Vork gave the Senator a scroll of instructions on dealing with the resurrected.
The Senator reviewed the scroll.
“He eats brains now?” she asked.
“Brains!” Justice Briff shouted, grabbing the hem of Vork’s cloak and putting it in his mouth.
“Legal minds will keep him current,” Vork replied, pulling his cloak from the justice’s mouth.
“I suppose there are enough lawyers in the Capital to keep him fed for a lifetime. Thank you for your service to the Realm and the Congressional party,” Senator Wallpot said, stowing the scroll in her desk drawer.
“Think nothing of it,” Vork replied, pulling the bag of traveling powder from his robe, and disappearing from the room.
The Senator helped the high court justice to his feet.
“Brains?” the justice asked, pulling at the Senator’s hair.
“Bradford!” the Senator yelled.
“Yes?” her assistant asked, hurrying into her office. A look of revolted surprised crossed his face, but he quickly covered and said, “Justice Briff, nice to see you again, sir.”
“Yarg,” the justice responded.
“Bradford, you attended law school, didn’t you?” the Senator asked.
“Yes, ma’am. Top of my class.”
“Wonderful! Please come in and shut the door.”