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"You take too long." growled a voice from the cellar. Milo didn't respond. He knew better than that. There was no point in arguing with Alva; she always had the last word. It was terribly boring, doing the errands, but 'boring' described his whole life. Even though he was a member of a criminal gang, he had never actually committed any crimes. He opened the cellar door with his free hand and descended the short flight of stairs. "Did you bring my ale?" asked Victor, a tall, thin man with his legs propped up on the table. "Yes, I brought your ale." grumbled Milo as he placed a flask on the table. A long, somewhat aged, sort of hollow face peered over his shoulder. "Didn't I tell you to get the soft cheese?" it inquired in an annoyed fashion. "Yes, Alva, you did. I apologize; they were out of the hard cheese." "Well, do try harder next time." She snapped as she slinked off. Milo looked over at Victor. He was currently admiring himself in a pewter mirror. Milo scowled, remembering how troublesome it was to acquire that mirror. When he finally did, Victor had claimed it as his own. As he was the leader, perhaps he had the right to, but Milo still found it unfair. He sat down with a sigh. "Where are Barnacle and Anne?" Victor looked up from the mirror. "Barnacle's off practicing its magic upstairs and Anne is doing…whatever it is she normally does." Milo shuddered. Upstairs. Nobody except for Barnacle ever went upstairs. The ceiling plaster had some sort of slow-working toxin in it. If you breathed it in long enough, you'd die a slow and painful death. Barnacle, for some reason, was immune to it. Barnacle was odd. Nobody knew what gender it was, or even if it had a face. It wore a hood that covered the area where its face should be, you see. The parts that weren't covered by the hood were covered by long, greasy dark hair. Barnacle's hair was always in its face, but it managed to see nonetheless. "Well, could I speak with everybody? You see, I have an idea." Milo said with a faint smirk.Victor raised an eyebrow.
"An idea? Surprising." "Well, you see, I never have much time for ideas." Milo said. He decided to leave out the bit where this was because he always had to make chilled drinks with little paper umbrellas for Victor. "BARNACLE! ALVA! ANNE!" yelled Victor. Alva shuffled in, a scowl on her face. Anne stood behind her. "What is it this time?" Alva sneered. "Apparently Milo has an idea that he wants to discuss with us." Victor said simply. Alva's expression remained unchanged as she sat down at the table. Anne simply stood there. Her face was pale and gaunt, her eyes shining brightly, in a frightening manner. "I asked for a turkey sandwich." She said calmly. "Oh? I thought you asked for a sack of dead mongeese." Said Alva, her voice sounding as though it had been stir-fried in sarcasm. Anne's eyes were filled with rage as she grabbed a breadknife that was sitting about on the table. She lunged at Alva, but was quickly stopped by Barnacle, who just so happened to be walking in. The knife clattered to the stone floor. Anne, who had been pushed back, simply stood there, fists clenched. Barnacle just sat down. If it was the sort of person that talked, it might have lectured Anne on morals and related topics at this time. However, it did not talk. Nobody knew if this was because it chose not to or was unable to. (It didn't write either. In situations where it desperately needed to communicate, it simply drew a picture. It was a terrible artist, really.) Anne slowly sat down, her gaze shifting from Barnacle to Alva and back again. "Er…um…right then. What about this sandwich?" asked Milo. Anne stood up abruptly and jabbed a finger at the sandwich in the food basket. "This sandwich is not a turkey sandwich." She said, her face devoid of all expression. "IT'S A BEEF SANDWICH!"
Her expressionless face was suddenly contorted into a face of rage; a face of hatred. She rolled up her sleeves, picked up the knife and began walking over to Milo. "Eh…eheh, heh." Was all that managed to come from Milo's voicebox. When Anne was concerned, matters like this could be deadly. Anne was an assassin and sandwich enthusiast. Her small bedroom was filled with pointy objects and moldy sandwiches with small insects crawling on them. She was not especially intelligent, but was excellent with a blade. For this reason, she was treated with great respect. Anne lunged again, swinging the knife through the air. Milo leaned backwards in his chair to avoid the sharp blade. As the knife came closer, he leaned farther back but lost his balance. The wooden chair fell to the floor with Milo in it. Anne continued to walk toward him with the blade. (Nobody dared interfere because they would be swiftly killed if they got in her way.) Milo quickly scrabbled about as he tried to stand up. He realized, however, that it was too late. Anne was right next to him. She swung the blade with a smirk. Milo squeezed his eyes shut, awaiting the end. It didn't come. He opened his eyes and looked around. Barnacle stood in front of him. Alva and Victor still sat at the table, eyes wide as saucers. There was a knife in Barnacle's stomach. There was no blood, there were no screams of anguish. Just a knife in its stomch. It pulled the blade out from its stomach with a one simple hand movement and placed it on the table. Anne looked at Barnacle with angered eyes. Her fists shook and her eyebrows were furrowed. Barnacle simply stood there. Anne walked off without even bothering to retrieve the knife. "Um…well then! Meeting adjourned!" said Victor. "Good." Remarked Alva as she hurriedly stood up and walked off through a narrow corridor. "But…wait! I had an idea!" said Milo anxiously. It hadn't been a good idea, really, but it would have been exciting.
"Well, if it's coming from you, it'll just be a waste of time. As leader, I get to decide these things." said Victor as he admired himself in the mirror again. He was only the leader because everybody else had grown tired of arguing about it. One of the most aggravating things in the world is a determined idiot. Another reason was that he made a good puppet. It was fairly easy to trick him into doing something, so even if Alva devised all of the group's criminal plans, the blame would be pinned on Victor, for he was the leader. Milo was generally a mild-mannered person. However, even he got tired of doing boring jobs. He generally never even got to participate. You see, everybody except for him had some sort of useful talent: Victor could talk his way through anything, Barnacle was a fairly good mage, Anne was an excellent asassin, and Alva tended to know…important things. But Milo was just sort of the person who stood behind and carried the equipment. He was not especially talented at anything besides being untalented. And he never could come up with a good idea. It was not surprising that his associates scoffed at the thought of him having in idea. Nevertheless, he felt angry. Barnacle still stood in front of him. "…'ey, Barnacle?" Milo asked. "You may as well go back to your practicing, the meeting was adjourned." Barnacle slowly began walking down the hall that led to the staircase. He gestured for Milo to follow. "Follow?" Milo said sheepishly. "Eh, that wouldn't be all that healthy for me, really. I'd rather-" Barnacle gestured again. "Fine." Milo said simply as he began to follow Barnacle. Down the hall they went, and then up the staircase. To the upstairs. A long time ago, this building had been a fairly busy place. It was a mental instutution that some council dreamed up. After a few years of construction, it had been finished. It was a fairly attractive building, if you happen to like gargoyles.
The instution was up and running for a year until people started dying. They got rashes and scabs on their skin, then died after a few weeks. Nobody knew what was happening until some intelligent person realized that it was the ceiling plaster. The building was quickly abandoned. It had sat there, being empty for seventy years before Alva, Victor, Anne and Milo had come across it. There, they had found Barnacle, who had been living on the upper floors. Barnacle still lived on the upper floors, but came to the cellar every so often to see how things were faring for its associates. At last, they reached the last stair. Barnacle reached out its arm and pushed the door open. Milo stepped up into the large room. It was white, completely white. There were bits of broken furniture scattered about, with some moldy, tattered curtains hanging from a window with so much grime on it that you couldn't see anything through it. Perhaps this had once been a doctor's living quarters. Suddenly, he remembered the toxins in the plaster. Not wanting to inhale anything dangerous, he quickly covered his mouth and nose with one hand and began scurrying down the stairs. "Eh, right then. Back to-" "WATCH WHERE YOU'RE BLOODY GOING!" snarled Alva as she narrowly dodged Milo. "WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU'RE DOING, RUNNING DOWN THE STAIRS LIKE THAT? I NEARLY DROPPED WHAT I WAS CARRYING!" "…eh, well, you see, it's because-" Milo managed to croak. "That was a rhetorical question, you imbecile." Alva growled. She handed the two buckets that she was carrying to Barnacle, who began walking up another flight of stairs. "Ehm…What is it that you're doing with the buckets? And why are you up here? The ceiling toxins, the-" Milo questioned. "Oh, just shut up, won't you? You talk too much. It's just a chemical solution that might fix the problem with the plaster." Remarked Alva as she walked back down the stairs. Milo followed with a yawn. It was late. He'd retire to his cot soon.
Milo awoke with a jolt as he felt something sink into his flesh. He slowly opened his eyes. Anne was standing above his cot, prodding him with a spoon.
"Alva needs you to run some errands. I need you to buy me a turkey sandwich." "Errands?" Milo groaned. "I did them yesterday, didn't I? Come to think of it, I did them the day before as-" "SHUT UP AND GO!" shouted Alva from down the hall. "Fine, fine." he grumbled as he got out of the cot. "I can't even take a pre-afternoon nap…" After putting on his coat and shoes and being shoved out of the door by Alva, Milo looked up at the sky. It was a lovely, blue sky, with twittering birds flying about. Of course, you couldn't see the blue sky because of the grey stormclouds, which seemed to have permanently lodged themselves over the city. You couldn't hear the birds either, because of all the ruckus in the street. It was sort of a dismal place, Löffelthorpe. Even its name had a sort of dismal ring to it. It was home to about sixty-seven thousand people, most of them petty crooks. You'd run across several of them just taking a simple walk, but you could easily flee their not-sofrightening wrath with a simple 'hey, what's that over there?'. Milo quickly began walking. The sandwich man was only a block or two away, but he closed early on Tuesdays. If Anne didn't receive her sandwich this time, well… He decided to stop thinking about it. It was unpleasant to walk around feeling nauseous. "You there! Oy, you!" said a hoarse voice coming from a dark alleyway. Milo shuddered. He hated dark alleyways. "I know you hear me!" said the voice. "Listen, you're Milo Alderson, are you not?" Milo stepped closer to the alleyway. "Ehm…Pardon me for asking, but…how do you know my name?" "I know more about you than just your name, sir." the voice remarked in a most frightening manner. "Now, listen. I want you and your…ehm…associates to do a job for a friend of mine." "I'm listening." said Milo eagerly. "I'm sure you've heard of a Lord Avery Fleming."
"I'm sure I have also, sir." "My…friend wants this man dead." "Dead? But…the security…and-" "You do not have to do this. However, there will be some gold involved." "Gold, eh?" "Enough of it to keep you from doing these jobs ever again." "Um…well…in that case, we will do this assasination for you…um…who are you, exactly?" Milo received no reply. He peered into the alley, only to see that the person was gone. Ah, well. A lifetime supply of gold…for all of them! Milo decided to go back without doing the errands. Even Anne wouldn't care about her sandwich when she heard the news. He dashed down the street, toward the abandoned mental institution like a mad turkey. As he neared the cellar door, he smiled to himself. Finally, something interesting! The cellar doors flew open and Alva stormed out. "Milo, listen, have you seen Anne, she's gone and- where, might I ask, are the groceries?" "Didn't have time for them, you see, but I got us a job-" "No time for this nonsense! Have you seen Anne?" "No…why?" Alva ran off without explaining. Milo sighed as he slowly descended the cellar stairs. "Victor?" he asked. "Yes?" grunted Victor. "I hope you realize that you just interrupted me."
"From what?" "Well, before you stormed in, I was busy sitting here, looking dark and mysterious." "This is more important! I've got us an assassination job!" "Assassination job, eh? Who do we target?" "Lord Avery Fleming." said Milo proudly. "AVERY FLEMING? LORD AVERY FLEMING? YOU MUST BE OFF YOUR ROCKER!" "What, have I done something wrong?" "SOMETHING WRONG? THIS IS WORSE THAN JUST WRONG!" "Erm…why?" "Because he's a bloody demon, that's why!" snapped Alva, who was standing at the top of the cellar stairs. "Victor, for once, is right. You really must be off your rocker." "Eh…well…sorry, then…" Milo said in sort of a pitiful manner. "Have you found Anne?" Victor inquired. "Yes. She ran after a squirrel with a hatchet, but I managed to find her." Alva said simply. "Wait- Alva, there's got to be a way to kill demons, hasn't there?" Milo asked. "There probably is, but I'd expect that it's near impossible." Alva said dryly. "Wasn't there some old legend or something?" "Probably was. I'll tell you what…you stop being an annoying twit for the rest of the day and I'll see if I can find this legend." "I'm not really that annoying, or that twit-like, right?" "There you go again, being a twit!" "Eh…sorry…it's a deal, I suppose." After a dinner that consisted of dry, salted meat and wilted lettuce, Alva pulled out a large, leather-bound tome.
"This is a book filled to the brim with all of those moronic legends…Ah. Here. Page one." she began reading aloud, as nobody else in the group could read. Well, perhaps Barnacle could, but he was upstairs now anyway. "In Tymes of Yore, there was Nothyng. Then, from the vast and empty Nothyng, came a Spoon. With this Spoon, the World and its Occupants were Nobly Forged. First came the Demons, the Wyse and All-Powerful Ones. Others were Forged as well, but none so Nobly Forged as the Demons were. Unlike the Others, the only Thyng that could destroy the Demons was the Spoon that Created Them." Alva closed the book with a thud. "All right, enough of these fairy tales. I've got things to do."
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