On Life, Death, and All Manner of States in Between (Part 1)

Michael O. Varhola

By Clint Staples

The first time Arabasz saw the Amazon was when he had just begun bodyguarding for Selenius the Graverer. She had immediately tried to kill him.

Selenius had been working on an inscription in one of the cemeteries adjacent to the abandoned Necropolis in the hills southwest of Kos city and needed someone to keep watch for unruly residents. Arabasz had taken up a perch on the tilted and sheared-off top of a cenotaph to someone whose name began "Rhinos-." Arabasz had no idea who that worthy might have been, or what the other syllables of his or her name were, but guessed that he or she had suffered terribly from wisecracks about his or her nose throughout his or her life. Why they would then want to have had the name commemorated with a costly chunk of carved alabaster was beyond him.

Of course, he was not being paid to consider such matters. He was being paid to keep old Selenius safe from the denizens of the Necropolis while he scratched, hammered and chiseled, and otherwise did just about everything possible to lure such creatures to him. Arabasz had taken up his position for two reasons. Firstly, it was an excellent vantage point over the area, giving him views of the three main thoroughfares through assorted sepulchers, tombs, mausolea, and headstones, as well as lines of sight to the two sets of massive opened doors that led to subterranean vaults apparently filled with the bodies of those who had died prior to the Cataclysm of a century earlier. Why the doors should have been left open was beyond him, but he considered it to be a monumental case of bad civic planning.

The second reason he had chosen the spot was that he was still close enough to leap down to the aid of the old scrivener should the need arise — as it had on two occasions thus far, once when a headless shambler had risen from a spot between two canted and cracked gravestones, and again when a particularly brave ghoul had snuck out of the nearer set of massive doors to the underdead vaults. The headless one could hardly be dispatched with a well-placed arrow to the brain, so Arabasz had been forced to fall upon and dismember it. When he had disjointed the withered corpse sufficiently it lost its "animus" and the pieces