A small form drifted through the overgrown jungle. Strange creatures swung from trees, slithering six-legged dog-things ran in packs, and all of it was being observed by a desiccated head in a floating jar with tiny mechanical arms. Bartholomew Partridge was on the lookout for a new race to incorporate into the CEN’s army, preferably as ghouls of some sort. Since he was the only one with the level of freedom simply being a head afforded, he had taken off in a small pod by himself to search for a habitable planet with an intelligent indigenous population. If they liked violence, all the better.
This one seemed promising; he had heard there was intelligent life on it; the planet was actually a moon orbiting a gas giant, and apparently had some tall blue people on it that had once had some issues with humans a few millenniums back. So far, he hadn’t found any, but there were quite a few creatures that world make awesome zombie monsters, maybe even nuclear zombie monsters, he thought to himself.
His tiny robot hands twitched excitedly as he snapped images and recordings of the various fauna and flora on the planet of Pandora; he now knew how they were going to decorate the Leviathan in the near future. He sent a communication to his pod, which then transferred it to the Leviathan. The pod then navigated toward Bart and scooped him up to be spirited away into the upper atmosphere.
Bart had sent a request for a cargo ship, a big one, to mine some trees and animals to grow in the Leviathan for decoration and because even a space-castle needed dungeon monsters.
Brandon was standing on the observation deck, watching the planet Mars pass by as they sped toward Earth to see if they could find the shorty, and at the very least, get some food for Mickey to shut him the hell up. No one went to Mars any more, ever since they “accidentally” opened a gateway to Hell, the demons had a nasty habit of eating people, making them very difficult to deal with in a civilized manner. Brandon wished he could have seen the Doom that unfolded on Mars; he’d heard it was awesome.
His Mysteriousness noticed a call coming in from Bart, so he waited for it to finish, then listened to the message. “Guys! Guys! Guess what? I found that planet I read about! I didn’t find any of those blue people, but I found a lot of really cool killer animals and glowing plants, I think they would be a good look for the ship. You know how I have wanted to redecorate.”
Brandon shook his shadowy head in the deep folds of his enigmatic robes; Bart had once had a lot of brains, but unfortunately, Brandon thought, they were in his ass, and he blew that off. AT the same time, he had a habit of failing disastrously in his endeavors, and Brandon loved to be ringside when Bart screwed up. He sent a message back; “Sending our biggest transport. Grab what you can and come home as soon as possible. We may actually find the Shorty, and I want to see how everyone responds to your new decorating ideas.”
Brandon chuckled to himself beneath the folds of his mysterious robes and his eyes glowed with an evil glint. If there was one thing he loved more than sowing discord and chaos in the greater universe, it was fucking with his cohorts in dangerous ways.
Marcus was walking along a corridor trying futilely to enjoy an ice cream, which kept dribbling out of a new hole in his cheek, when he heard a loud rumbling and looked to see the massive, stadium-sized cargo ship The Short Leviathan undock and take off toward Alpha Centauri. He dropped his cone and walked over to the nearest communications station. “Umm… Why the hell is the Short Leviathan leaving for another star?”
Brandon, still up on the observation deck, was more than a little surprised that Marcus could tell where the ship was going. He replied “The planet Pandora. Bart found some new decorations while trying to find those blue people he read about.”
“So you sent him a ship?! He’s only a head!” Marcus shouted.
Brandon was smiling widely. “Oh, don’t worry. I sent some ghouls and werebadgers to help out.”
“WHAT?!” Marcus shrieked. “We are halfway to earth, we need them to try and catch the shorty, not fucking redecorate!”
Brandon whispered to himself “With that guy, it’s just too god damn easy…” referring to the fact that it took almost no effort to get Marcus riled and angry, at least since he was unwillingly converted into a lich. Still, it was a lot of fun, like running around in a video game with all the weapons and god mode; sure, it was a little unsatisfying, but who cares? It’s not like they were doing it for medals or anything.
The Mysterious Brandon suddenly felt something odd; something he knew was coming, but seemed to be several months ahead of schedule. He was no longer concerned with fucking around with Marcus, although he made a mental note to do more of it since he was greatly enjoying the sound of the lich shrieking like some angry, shrewish, impotent wife.
No, something had changed, and it just so happened to have something to do with their intended destination. Everyone was aware that Brandon’s power came from somewhere other than the traditional sources, but none of the rest of the PEN had any idea where it came from.
He would tell them soon enough, because despite himself he really liked impressing the others, but he had been hoping for a bit more preparation. But what he felt was felt by thousands, perhaps millions of other across the stars; something had happened, and their deity, the mighty Cthulhu, was awake and, likely trying to eat someone. The last record of such an occurrence was back in the summer of 1926, several thousand years in the past. But something had changed, and now The Brandon was as eager to get to get to Earth as Mickey the cannibal.
The Foie Gras entered Vhoorl’s atmosphere, just over the city where they had met Barry, in the early morning. The sun was just cresting the horizon, but of course, this was impossible to tell from under the dank cloud-cover on the eldritch world. They were headed directly toward Barry’s Embassy in hopes that he would have an idea of where Shorty had gone.
The good news was that since day was coming, the horrors were less likely to be a threat. Of course, because of the cloud cover, there was little difference between night and day, but this is incredibly convenient for the story, so there you go.
The bladed cargo ship landed in the street right in front of Barry’s, this time, however, Brandy was on full alert, ready to shoot anything aside from the crew that even looked at her funny. She actually took a few pot shots at passing mi-go and nightguants because, well, you never can be too sure when it comes to evil spirits and alien fungus.
Melvin lead, pounding on Barry’s door so forcefully that they could hear several of the nuts and bolts that should have been holding it in place fall on the floor. “Fuck off, we’re closed!” Came the old man’s voice. Melvin punched the door near the handle and it swung inward. “God damn it! Regular door handles are really hard to come by here and the portal only send stuff from earth once every week or… Hey, it’s you guys! How’s the zombie curse? Did you hate Fantasia, too?”
Piper stepped past Melvin and got right to the point. “Do you know where Shorty is?”
Barry held his hands up defensively. “Yes, yes. Well, kind of. Did you know his name was Issur? Me either. I can’t remember why he mentioned it, but he did. Anyway, he went through the portal at the outskirts of town. It leads to earth, but I warned him, only Cthulhu’s minions are supposed to be using it, so I imagine your friend there probably got himself eaten.”
Piper swooned at the news and Melvin grabbed the front of Barry’s robes and lifted him effortlessly off the ground. “Do you think maybe you could have worded that a little differently? Piper is more than a little fond of our friend and the thought of him being eaten won’t do much for her morale.”
Barry started to say “Well, it’s the truth, and if she can’t handle it maybe you all should just leave Vhoorl.” But instead just got out “well, it’s the tr” before Melvin started shaking him like a rag doll until his unintelligible noises stopped and he assumed the old man was not going to interrupt again. “Where is the portal? And don’t be a wise ass of I’ll nail your ass to the street for the next scragg migration.”
Barry seemed sufficiently cowed for the moment, and explained in some detail how to reach the portal to earth to the south. Unfortunately, however, there was a problem; there was no way the Foie Gras was going to make it through; too much nonliving matter. At LeDocuhe’s suggestion, they refrained from mentioning this detail to Brandy, because she did, in fact, fancy herself a living thing and would likely have her feelings hurt if she heard it.
“So what you’re saying is that we need to fly all the way to Earth from here?” Henry asked.
“Well, either that or leave your ship here and walk through a portal frequented by unimaginable man-eating horrors.” Barry said flatly. Piper looked to LeDouche. “How long is a flight from here to Earth?” she asked, fearing the answer. “Abowt one wek.” Piper felt weak and leaned heavily on Barry’s desk, which slid and almost caused her to fall on the floor. Barry glared at her from up in Melvin’s grip. “Watch it you fat b-”
Melvin let the old man go, and he fell flat on his butt on the floor and walked over to help Piper stand. Henry got under her other shoulder and provided what support she could to the larger woman. Without another word, they walked out of the Embassy to the Foie Gras. LeDouche glared at the old man, then lifted his chin, sniffed, then did an about-face and walked out. Bert was the last to leave. “I thought I was a callous ass. I hope that door doesn’t close, and as we leave, those scragg things come in here and eat your legs, you rotten old asshole.”
Bert slammed the door behind himself as he walked out, which caused several of the remaining bolts, already damaged by Melvin’s assault, to fall out. Barry was watching the Foie Gras lift off and trying to move the door, when he heard a familiar scrabbling, scratching noise. Several black, stony crablike creatures scuttled over the broken door as the multitudes swarmed by outside. Before Barry could climb onto his desk, or even get away from the door, he felt burning pain in his legs, followed by an itching sensation and cold. He looked down to see nothing but bones below his hips, the flesh eaten away and the wounds cauterized by the vicious scragg saliva.
The creatures continued on their way, and as their telltale sounds disappeared, Barry had but one thought before he tried to get to the phone to call the home office for help; what an oddly specific curse that was. Still, it beat the hell out of another year on Fantasia, by his reckoning.
Shorty rolled out the door at the last second, just before a pulsating tentacle smashed him into the wall and turned him into paste. He landed in a somersault, then twisted back and kicked the door shut. There was a loud click and it appeared sealed. A loud SLAM resonated through the structure as no doubt one of the tentacles smashed into the unrelenting door, trying to break through to reach him.
What Shorty saw perched on the railing, in the middle of this earthbound city of dread populated with indescribable monstrosities and things with shitloads of tentacles, was a tiny dragon with a long slender body, and iridescent wings, covered in shining black scales. “Well, that’s something you don’t see every day.” He mumbled to himself. The little dragon sat up on its hind legs.
“Very true, this damn city doesn’t have any mirrors.” It said. Shorty felt an uncomfortable, unfamiliar sensation; he was dumbfounded. The feeling faded quickly. “Are you from here? I was just attacked by a hundred foot tall man with a squid for a face, so I would not be surprised to find out that the butterfly/dragon was an unholy monstrosity as well.”
“Nah, I’m a shimmerdrake from the planet Fantasia. Unlike most things from that planet, I wasn’t content with paradise and got bored. I snuck on a ship, wound up on some crappy clouded planet for the better part of a decade, eating creepy looking fish that tried to eat me back, and then discovered this portal the other day. Ever since then, I have been here, trying to get the hell off.”
“You can’t find a way off?” Asked Shorty.
The little dragon nodded. “I would fly, but I am sure something would eat me. I was eaten 3 times on that fucking planet, and I tell you, it is not fun. I had to burn by way out each time.”
Shorty was just about to ask how he burned his way out of what, but a deep one had spotted the two and was calling for backup. It croaked twice, but before it got too far, Shorty got an idea of what the dragon was referring to. The little creature inhaled a short, quick breath, and then blasted forth a gout of bright orange flame that would have been the envy of an entire brigade of flame-thrower wielding pyromaniacs. The heat from the flames hurt his face, but not nearly as much as it did the fish-man. It danced and twirled in a vain effort to free itself from the inferno. The blast only lasted a few second, but when it was done, the entire upper half of the deep one was charred beyond recognition, and the head had been blasted free of everything but the skull.
Shorty nodded thoughtfully. “I think anything that sees you do that will decide against eating you.”
The little dragon smiled, its needle-like teeth showing with the gesture. Shorty though maybe he had found his double in life; a small, dangerous creature with a dark sense of humor. “What’s your name, dragon?”
“My full name is Mintberry Inferno Butterflight; but ever since I was a chick they just called me ‘Torch’.”
Shorty smiled widely. “Pleasure to meet you, Torch. Would you like some company getting the hell off this rock?” The little dragon nodded and flitted over to Shorty’s shoulder. “Yeeow! Christ, those claws are sharp.”
Torch smiled, “Oops, sorry. We should get you a new shirt.”
“Can’t you just fly?” Shorty asked through gritted teeth.
The tiny dragon tapped a finger against his cheek. “Probably, but like to perch.”
Shorty nodded. It was sound enough for him, but then he was accustomed to blatant selfishness. “well, we are going to need to get our bearings. Are you up for a small flight? I’m a pretty good shot, so I could pick off anything that might try to catch you.”
Torch chewed on the suggestion for a minute then nodded. “Okay. You’ll shoot anything that gets close?” Shorty nodded reassuringly. “Okay…” The little dragon sighed, and then leaped into the air. Then suddenly blinked out of existence. “Torch?” Shorty asked, suddenly feeling about as alone as he did when the Foie Gras took off.
“Yes?” came the high-pitched reply, mere feet away from him. “Wait, you can become invisible?”
“Yeesss….” came the drawn-out response from Torch.
“Then why are you worried about being spotted?” Shorty asked, exasperated.
“Because, these things are like other-dimensional monsters. Who’s to say they can’t see invisible creatures?”
“Touche’…” Shorty replied and aimed his shotgun at the space where he thought Torch might be. He saw something fly close by after a minute and he lined up a shot and squeezed the trigger. There was a loud click, and Shorty looked at the gun, surprised. “Oh, right…” He mumbled; he hadn’t reloaded the gun since arriving in R’lyeh. He looked again, and the flying thing was a seagull. He chuckled and started sliding shells into the shotgun.
He looked back up to see the gull suddenly stop mid-flight, struggle for a bit, then suddenly a bright puff of fire enveloped its head, which was suddenly missing once the glow faded. The body slowly drifted back down to Shorty’s level, and then Torch faded back into view and began chomping on the bird.
“Sorry, I haven’t eaten in days.” He said through mouth-fulls of gull.
Shorty grimaced; Torch had little modesty when eating apparently. “You don’t think every creature for miles didn’t just see that?” Torch stopped mid-chew. A thoughtful look crossed his face. “Shit… Sorry, my hunger got the better of me. Good news though, the ocean is just a mile or two to the North.”
Shorty shrugged. “No worries. I’m a shorty, and people call me, well, Shorty. We’re born without the ability to feel fear, so don’t sweat it. hey, can you extend that invisibility thing? You know, so that others are invisible, too?”
Torch pouted a bit as he thought. “You know, I never thought to try.” He concentrated for a few seconds, and sure enough, Torch and the sea gull disappeared from sight. “Oh, bad-ass! Good call, Shorty!” He dropped the bird, his hunger either sated or forgotten and alighted on Shorty’s shoulder again, this time more gently. The tiny dragon concentrated again, and then disappeared. A split second later, Shorty’s skin disappeared, then his muscles, leaving behind organs, bones and his eyeballs. A second or two later, they started to fade as well until he and all of his equipment were hidden from sight.
“How much do you have to concentrate to keep that going?” He asked, wondering how long they had before they became visible again, if, in fact, the beasts of sunken-and-now-risen R’lyeh could not see invisible things.
“I don’t. But I imagine you will come back if I break contact. But I don’t know for sure.” Shorty nodded, and then remembered that no one could see him. Shorty and torch headed for the stairs up from their current position; They ended abruptly in the down direction into a several hundred foot fall onto oddly angled cobblestones, much like the ones in the city on Vhoorl, but went all the way to the roof of the structure a mere twenty feet up.
once at the top, they saw how the deep ones were getting up and down so easily; the back end of the sarcophagus of Cthulhu was built much like a ziggurat, with large, 30 foot tall stone tiers, broken in the middle by hundreds of man-sized stairs. It suddenly occurred to shorty that he had all but forgotten the angered, leviathan god from beyond the stars when he met Torch, and wondered if the angered elder beast was going to come out and start tearing things up before they were able to leave.
Fortunately for the pair, the great and terrible Cthulhu was held in place; several of its tentacles had been caught in the closing door, and there was an army of deep ones frantically trying to force the door open because the mighty one known in other cultures by names like Tulu, Cullu, C’thulhu, and/or Kutulu, among others had a really sore face and was likely to start killing them if they didn’t hurry.
Shorty and Torch started down the stairs with all haste, avoiding the deep ones, who were clearly not able to see the invisible.