A Matter of Taste
By the time Master Rigor found out the corpse was the Necromancer’s head chef, it was too late.
“You know His Grimness doesn’t care about the details. He’ll be down in an hour for the ritual. Have the body prepared,” the guard said, holding his nose.
“Of course, of course.” Master Rigor bobbed up and down in his eagerness to please.
“Better get to it. If you don’t have that body, your apprentice will be gutting you on that slab tomorrow.”
“But why would He bother to Raise a lowly chef. Surely--”
“Don’t know, don’t care. I’ve done my job and I’m getting out of here. This place stinks.” The guard slammed the door on his way out.
Master Rigor sniffed contemptuously. What an oaf! The Halls of Passing should be treated with respect. He took the three Eternity Jars he had been looking for and made his way back to the Room of Cleansing.
The thought of the Necromancer himself honoring these rooms with his presence! Well, he’d find everything in perfect condition. Master Rigor checked his reflection on a polished brass urn as he passed, hoping he’d have time to wax his mustache. An hour was plenty of time. The body was already prepared. Unfortunately, he had already removed the organs, but it wouldn’t take long to place them back into the body, no time at all.
The body was right where he had left it, but there was something missing.
The organs were gone.
Three Eternity Jars clattered to the floor and broke into thousands of pieces.
“Pustuuuule!” where was that boy? Master Rigor darted around and poked his head into the storage cupboard, then the embalming rooms, but Pustule was nowhere to be found. On his way back he found a plague of rats dragging along a familiar-looking liver. He snatched it out of their mouths and shook off the last rat, a nearly blind blacktail.
“Thaank yooou! This belongs to poor, departed Mr. Wort, I believe.” He glared at the rats with disapproval. “Who gave you permission to take this?”
“It was the lad, Pustule,” the old rat spoke in a squeaky voice. “He took the heart and ran off. Seemed a shame to let a nice liver go to waste.”
“Which way did he go?”
“Towards the cellars.” The rat licked its paws regretfully.
Master Rigor returned the liver to its place and left, this time locking the room with a skeleton key.
He found Pustule in the catacombs, sitting on a pile of bones with his ladylove.
“Oh, Malady, my treasure! Look, what I brought you. Doesn’t old Pustule deserve a kiss?” He handed her the heart.
“Oh, Pustule, it’s lovely!”
Just as she was about to bite into the heart, Master Rigor tore it out of her claws. “Thaank yooou!” He gave Pustule a clout round the ear. “Useless boy! I should have your head for this!”
“Oh please, don’t. I’m sorry, Master.” Pustule rubbed his ear.
“Now then. Where’s the brain? The Necromancer’s coming, and he can’t revive the man without his brain. Quickly, boy, before we both lose our heads for this!!”
Pustule looked at him with his vacant eyes the color of swamp water. “But Master, you wife took the brain! She said scalloped brains was your favorite!”
“Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear!” Master Rigor pulled the boy up by his collar. “Now you get to the Room of Cleansing, and don’t let anybody in. Even the Necromancer himself!”
When Master Rigor arrived home, he smelled the mouthwatering scent of scalloped brains right from the door. He was too late! He slumped into the bench by the door.
His wife poked her head out of the kitchen. “What in all the Nineteen Realms is the matter, Mortie? You look pale as packed lard!”
“All is lost! I’m done for. Ohhh.” He felt faint and lowered his head down between his stick-thin shins.
After he told her what had happened, she sat next to him, frowning. “It’s true. Once a brain’s been scalloped it’s no good for thinking any more. You must replace it with another one, Mortie. It’s you only chance!”
Master Rigor lifted his head out of his hands. “Of course!” He kissed her and ran for the Greeting halls.
“What do you mean, that’s the only one?” Master Rigor eyed the body of the city rat-catcher with distaste. It seemed unlikely the man had any culinary skills whatsoever. Then he shrugged and got to work. He needed a brain, and this one was available.
Master Rigor tried to wipe sweat from his brow as inconspicuously as possible as the Necromancer entered, followed by ten of his Black Guard. He bent to sniff the body, his black robes pooling on the floor like liquid darkness. Taking no notice of Master Rigor he took a jar of resurrection ointment and spread it over the corpse’s skin, then inserted the whisper-thin revival rods in their places. After the nineteen amulets were in their places, he motioned, and the guards dragged in a crying youth who wore stained chef’s robes. When the Necromancer raised the blade to the youth’s throat, Master Rigor looked away.
Whimpering, Master Rigor threw clothes into his travel case. He had to get out of the city before they came for him. The image of the flashing knife pushed itself into his mind, and he redoubled his efforts.
“Mortie! There’s someone to see you!” his wife called.
“I’m not feeling well. Send them away.”
The stairs creaked as someone climbed up. He saw the uniform of the Black Guard and swallowed.
“No! It’s not my fault!”
“What? The Necromancer sent me to compliment you on a job well done.”
“Whatever possessed the man to make him rat croquettes, I dunno, but he says they was the best he ever had. Guess it’s a matter of taste.”
That was the last thing Master Rigor heard before he fainted.