Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Tales from the Way Down (Part 4)

"There is no 'bad-ass' in Mimir"

Tom'o'Troubles' money went a long way for Mimir and Judas Janet in those early days. They had booze. They had tables and chairs. They even had a proper bar, and Mimir had a good shave. What they needed now were customers, and that was going to be a problem.

The occult underground of Necropolis had three major locations. Tom'o'Troubles' house, home to the magic mafia was one. The Grimoire Arcanum, the bookshop owned by Lady Vapour's cult, was another. And the Aleister Arms was the third. And the Aleister Arms owner was not a good man to mess with.

Nick Scratch was a magician. He wasn't a weekend occultist, or a cultist of the odd. He was an honest-to-god sorcerer, and he loved it. Whenever Necropolis moved, Nick Scratch felt it in his bones. Politicians came to him for donations first, sometimes before they came to Tom'o'Troubles. No one ever did a health check on his bar. He never bought a liquor liscence. He was the enemy of Tom'o'Troubles. He was the self styled Lord of Necropolis.

...and Judas Janet and Mimir desperatly needed his customers.

In those days there were only the two of them. Before Lady Vapour came on board and brought her cult with her. Before Morningstar brought his band, the Fallen, in for nightly shows. Hell, even before Dominica, Bianca, Samantha, and Marissa, the Agony Sisters, started waiting tables.

Since Mimir couldn't leave the Way Down, it was up to Judas Janet to start gathering friends. So that's how she ended up at the Aleister Arms one night. From the outside it looked like a pub. Old gabeled rooves. Low, thick windows with wooden shutters. And the sign hanging over the door, a bad picture of an old, bald, fat man dressed all in black.

But inside...

If people went to have house parties and broker for power at Tom'o'Trouble's house...

If people went to plunge into the depths of dark knowledge at the Grimoire Arcanum...

..if people did those things in those sacred houses, they came to the Arms to party without strings. Bodies pounded in the flashing lights. Leather and lace. Satin and silk. Robes, dresses, skirts, shirts, belts...no one dressed exactly the same. The DJ was Rob Chaos, in whose hands Mozart was distorted into perverse anarchy. The man tending bar was One-Eyed Jack, an old friend of Mimir's (pre-decapitation).

And standing on a balcony overlooking it all, in his old leather jacket, rumbled silk shirt, and faded jeans was Nick Scratch. He drank absinth like it was mother's milk. He smoked black ciggarettes that burnt flame and smoke of indecent colors. He sat on a throne carved from black wood. And if everyone in the room were a puppet, he held all the strings.

But Judas Janet was no man's puppet. She glided through the crowd like an uncanny fish. She could almost see the lines connecting people to Nick Scratch's hands. She had her own bubble, though. The light caught the piercings, touched her face in odd ways. Her eyes, still red and black, her face with just a hint of the corpse dust smile. She'd taken a hit before she came, she needed it. The music killed the ghosts of past love. She didn't need torment right now: she needed insight.

She sought out the connectors. The independent ones who knew people. The people dancing there who weren't attached to Nick Scratch's strings. She gathered them like a flock of sheep. She took them out of the Aleister Arms for coffee, and she told them about Mimir's dream. Under dingy lights, at a corner table, Judas Janet told them about the Way Down; The lowest point in Necropolis. And she told them about its owner; the man who carried the golden's curse. She told them about dreams and nightmares, of gods and monsters. She told them about the place's power, its freedom.

And she told them to bring their friends. Lady Vapour had her cult, and the Grimoire Arcanum was free posting ground for the occult underground. Morningstar's band had its followers. And the others at the table were the heads of their cliques and societies. Where they led, others would follow.

But back at the Way Down, things weren't quite so hunky dory. Nick Scratch didn't like competition in the business of magic bars. And he was territorial about what was his, to boot. So the night wasn't too old before a couple of his thugs took the way down to the Way Down, and decided to have a personal chat with Mimir.

They found him sitting at a table, reading the cards. A bottle of rye at his elbow, a joint in the ash tray, and the cards laid out before him. He told them that he knew they'd come, and that he was not going to give Nick Scratch his due. His dream was not for sale, either in the currency of coin or the currency of pain.

They didn't take too kindly to that. So they upturned the table, threw him up against the wall, and threatened to take out his stitches; one at a time. Mimir tried to fight them, but as many will attest, Mimir is not a bad-ass. He's not a heavy, hell the man can barely hold his own in a knife fight. But he can take a beating with the best of them, and that's what he did. They left him on the ground, beaten and bleeding, trashed the Way Down a bit and left. They told him not to mess with old Nick Scratch.

Shortly after, when his broken bones began to set themselves, and the golden's curse began to go back into effect, Judas Janet returned, and she brought friends.

They were angry when they saw what Nick Scratch had done. They were angry, and they wanted revenge.

That's how the Way Down got its first patrons. But the story of their revenge on Nick Scratch, and the ascendence of the Way Down, is a story for another time.

NEXT: "The Vaporous Revenge of the Way Down" (OR "Devils on the Head of a Pin" or "Revenge Served Cold, Over Ice, With a Twist")


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