The City of Locked Doors, Chapter six, page fourMature

Noir turned and strode past the greeting desk, giving Elise a perfunctory wave as he did so. She continued shuffling her papers without so much as a glance up. My immortality is what makes it such an effective oath.

It makes it an easy oath, and easy oaths are not to be trusted.

Noir pulled himself onto the ascending stair as a peel of thunder split the heavens outside. I don't make oaths lightly, and you should know that with how long you've been nattering around in my head.

This got much too serious; I vote you dunk that poor fellow's head through the wall.

I don't feel like having to wash brain matter and blood from my hand, besides, his head wouldn't even dent the wall.

Bah, let's do it anyway.

You're supposed to be the sane one, as illogical as that is.

Exactly, I figured that I should start acting more like a proper voice in your head, one that prompts you to vicious deeds and terrible iniquity. That way, you have a reason to surmount your madness instead of just wallowing in it. With no one else to pull you from the muck, you'll have to do it yourself. I bet you'll look very heroic.

I have no interest in being heroic; I leave that particular brand of foolishness to men like Solomon Doll. Noir reached the Dollhouse's main floor and exited the stair. His arrival brooked a brief moment of attention and then most of the guards returned to their duties. He strode forward, moving down the center aisle between rows of neatly ordered desks. Those who occupied those desks acknowledged him with a murmured greeting but he scanned the room until he saw Gregorio waiting for him at the far end.

The necromancer lifted a feathered hand and beckoned to the other officers that occupied the main room. They interrupted their sundry tasks and moved to join him, weaving through the clustered desk with the agility of long practice. Corporal Valerian was the first to reach Gregorio whereupon she leaned her back against the wall and resumed her perusal of a Shadowmantic chalkboard. Numerous unopened buds and a dozen small flowers adorned her hair vines, accenting its dark green color with vibrant reds, whites, and blues. Next came Rias Dorian, his appearance mostly unchanged; his white coat remained firmly buttoned and his scales still glistened as if polished. Silas June followed in Dorian's shadow, scurrying forward with hunched shoulders as he pointedly sniffed the air.

Noir assessed the four of them at a glance and then dropped into an unoccupied chair. Adrian quietly took a seat behind him, "So what do you have for me?"

They glanced at one another briefly before Valerian stepped forward with cautious eyes, "We have a couple of small incidents, most notably that a Death-Market has cropped up somewhere in the undercity. Solomon Doll strictly forbids the selling of one's death so we'll have to shut it down."

"What types of deaths do they buy?"

It was Silas June who answered, his voice strangely confident when matched at his hunched body, "They're newly formed as far as I can tell and their merchandise is fairly restrained; nothing like torment or ritual. I haven't seen the establishment personally, but my informants tell its mostly basic deaths and gladiatorial bouts for profit."

"Do we know where it's located?"

Valeriius quickly scanned her chalkboard and reassumed control, "Yes, it's close to Grim's District so they cross the border easily; he allows Death Merchants so long as they pay him a tithe." She scowled, "Despicable."

"Whether or not it is despicable is not our concern, corporal." He swiveled his chair to face Dorian, "You're going to handle this one, Dorian-"

"I most certainly will not-" A shadow spear shot from the ground and impaled Dorian. He gurgled and twitched for a moment before expiring, his body held aloft by the shadow spear.

The End

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