As I walk in the valley of the shadow of Death, I fear the evil, for You have abandoned me; Your rod and Your staff, they are lost to me. You won’t prepare a table before me anymore; You won’t anoint my head with oil; My cup filled with nothingness. Surely power and loyalty has no place in all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of FAMINE forever.
It was supposed to be a day of a triumph; my annual ritual for the power everlasting. Nothing was going to interrupt. I was aware of a few lost souls, seeking some filthiest of witchcraft, trying to stop me and my righteous flock and for them I closed the Holy City and increased the Guardian Angels in duty. They weren’t supposed to be able to reach me.
As I was cutting open the main course, the filthy asian who had crossed me, I felt the rock beneath my feet tremble. Someone had cast foul magic in front of my cathedral. As I rushed to the front gate, I noticed the stench of a trail of heretic magic coming from the cellar and leading to the gates. The unfaithful had somehow learned of the natural caves beneath the cathedral. When I arrived I saw him. A man named Eagle glowed with heretic magic inside him, mocking and taunting me with his presence. He had others with him, but the ants didn’t matter. Eagle was a sin waiting to be forgiven, and I had plenty of mercy in me.
He had no chance before my righteousness. As I bashed his tainted head in the pavement, I had a revelation. This shadow of a man had infected his very blood, his birthright, with heretic filth. His blood ran in the street of my city and I saw it. A tidal wave so large it had to originate far away, in the sea. As the deluge embraced my mortal coil, I took comfort in the fact that the man who caused my demise has eternal torment ahead of himself for I took his life with my fair and true hickory stick.
It is dark. No, not even dark. I am surrounded by nothing. Nothing expect a wooden table, some playing cards, chips and two figures sitting in their chairs. They look inhuman, like living shadows. One is a man, drenched in the stench of a thousand muddy graves. Across from him sits a woman with her back to me, redolent of sweet perfume, but with a rotting odor roiling beneath the cloying surface. A battered, flickering lantern illuminates their game. The woman has several stacks of chips before her, the man nearly none.
“Once War’s errand boy cracks it into pieces, you’re going to want my help,” he says, trying to sound persuasive. She chuckles. The sound rattles like a dead willow branch in her lungs. “I
believe I can handle a little thing like California all by my lonesome.”
“Doesn’t seem like it considering that lackey of yours in the corner. Give me one nexus. Just one whirlpool o’ death. What do you say to that?” He lays down his cards – aces and eights.
“Nice hand,” she purrs, answering with a straight flush. “ But it’s all mine now.” Pale, thin hands, nearly skeletal, rakes in the whole pot of chips and gleaming cash. She counts her money in silent satisfaction. After a time he speaks, his voice flat. “ Well?” In his mouth, the word creaks like an old barn door. “That was quite a play,” she says in a gently mocking tone. “Really impressive for somebody like you. I think maybe we can find a place for you to work your magic, old friend. How about Manitou Bluff?”
She turns to me and I know her to be my master, lord and savior. She walks to me to give me my eternal reward for my my deeds – for my failure. As I accept my destiny without being able to resist, I see across the table. I see the other player’s face.
It is a grinning white skull.