Death Becomes Him

"Hmm. Yes, I think we should add this into the spell too." 

"Are you sure it's going to work? It's getting more and more of a mouthful." 

"No it's not. I'm just making sure it's foolproof. It has to be perfect." 

"Well, I don't know about you, but horrorcalifragilisticexpialido already sounds atrocious to pronounce." 

"You are pronouncing it just fine!" 

 Two wizards were huddled over a creaky table that threatened to break down under the weight of a hundred books on its surface. One of them was scribbling a single word down on a scroll that was getting longer and longer. It started off initially as horror, but as the wizard decided to make the spell more complex, the word itself got longer and longer. 

Finishing the spell with a few more letters, he shook out the scroll and beamed at it proudly. 

"There. That should just about do it." 

"You think it's going to work?" 

"One way to find out. Horrorcalifragilistacexpialidocious!" 

A white light shot from his wand towards the sky, but instead of creating some of the loveliest fireworks that rained candy and chocolate, the light just kept going up, up, up, until winked out of sight. 

The wizard who cast the spell shook his head in bewilderment. "I don't know what went wrong. I did my research!" 

"You got the pronunciation wrong! It's horrorcalifragilist-i-cexpialidocious, not horrorcalifragilist-a-cexpialidocious!!" 

"Oh. Oops." 

"Well, whatever you just cast, let's hope it doesn't cause any trouble." 

***

A new name appeared on the list that had the names of other people scheduled for today. Some had already been crossed out. A skeletal hand traced the new name and tapped it lightly, as it had not been expecting that one to show up, before rolling up the list and placing it into the folds of his cloak. 

The dark and dreary house became lonelier as the only person inhabiting the place disappeared out the door with his scythe. 

*** 

The spell was starting to lose its velocity. It made a graceful arc, and began its downwards descent, slow at first, before going faster and faster, towards a street where a lone civilian was taking a stroll and then- 

Plop. 

It sounded as messy as you read it. Except, there was no mess if he reached up to feel it. Not even a damp spot. 

Right then, a deep, almost hollow voice that seemed to echo around one's head spoke up behind the man. 

"Gladstone Gander, I presume?" 

    • Gladstone Gander
      Gladstone Gander

      Gladstone Gander, who was correctly presumed, felt out the plopping anyway. Nadda, nothing, zip. He sniffed loudly, dabbing his tissue to his bill. He NEVER got sick. Well hardly ever... usually just to avoid jury duty or... family parties... or as the cosmos's birthday present but ANYWAY... he was currently nursing a head cold and examining his empty, not plopped upon hand when the voice came and he inadvertently straightened his spine as if his skeleton was standing at attention.  Also was it chilly out here? Or was it just...

      "Y-esssssssssssss?" He intoned curiously to the deep voice, turning to see a hooded face and immediately getting what the scientific community called 'the heebie-jeebies'.  "If you're recruiting for 'Blokes 'n' Cloaks Monthly' I'm not interested... thanks! But I'm-" he was about to set foot on the street when a renegade car swerved to avoid a little old lady who was sticking to the man and plowed right through the spot that Gladstone himself would have occupied. "-good-" he squeaked in a high pitched tone before clearing his throat.  "I-I'm good... I'm great? I don't..." he took a few hazardous steps back from the curb just in time to narrowly avoid a piano crashing onto the sidewalk exactly where he'd been. The sunglasses on his bill slid off slightly as he let this sink in. "I-i-I'm gu-guh-well I... that- doesn't..." He looked up at the sky. "Where did that come from!?"

      • Harmonizer
        Harmonizer

        Directly after the accidents, the hooded figure was just in the process of swinging his scythe towards Gladstone when he paused, then stared at him. Then stared some more. 

        "You're... you're not dead." For the first time in a very long time, Death was bewildered. He held out a finger. "Um. Excuse me for a moment." 

        He pulled out the scroll and browsed through it, only to be further surprised to see Gladstone's name was gone. 

        "I don't understand, it was right here-" just as the words left Death's... teeth, the name reappeared again. 

        Several knives came raining down near Gladstone, but nothing else happened. The name on the scroll disappeared again. 

        • Gladstone Gander
          Gladstone Gander

          Very nearly bladed and not all all feeling reassured the gander let out a strained little laugh. 

          “Dead? Me? Must have the wrong guy. I’m the lucky Gladstone Gander so just...” he snatched the scroll from Death’s hand, produced a pen and proceeded to make annotations. “-jot-“ his name jumped down the page as he tried to scratch it out. “-THAT-“ he tried again his name wiggled away like a tadpole with DREAMS. “-d...down.” His name reappeared halfway down the page between Penelope Primrose (97, fond of cats) and Hubert Finglebrat (58, occasionally has been know to murder a curry) and Gladstone Gander (30, lucky)  damn near winked at him.

           

          ”I... but... wha? WHO ARE YOU?”  He turned to the grim spectre beside him forcing the scroll back into his boney hands. Resisting the urge to spin in circles presenting him the question on every teenage casualty in Hollywood’s lips (don’t argue the age gap that’s entirely different discussion) he just took a few more steps away. Missing a rusted needle and stumbling slightly completely doding that renegade Canadian gooseout for blood. “Just... leave me alone wouldja? I have things to do today.”

          • Harmonizer
            Harmonizer

            Death dusted the scroll off and gave Gladstone a disapproving frown. "Death comes for everyone one day, luck or no luck." 

            He reached out a bony hand to grab Gladstone's collar as he continued to peer at the scroll. Then he smacked it on the goose's head like there was a bad TV reception. For both of them. "I am Death, and your time has come. There. Must be. A glitch. In this thing, so just hold still while I- oh, bugger. Someone had just passed. I'll be right back." 

            Gladstone was immediately released as he disappeared into thin air. 

            Just in time for the zoo's escaped tiger, who'd been avoiding the spectre, to finally make its attack, growling and licking its chops as it advanced on Gladstone. 

            • Gladstone Gander
              Gladstone Gander

              There was a lot of flailing and attempted smacking of scrolls to rescue his hair from being harassed, if he was going to die there was no reason to do it in less than pristine condition. Thank you very much.   The apparently soon to be beautiful corpse hit the sidewalk as his company departed suddenly and he smoothed out his hair with a morose frown.  Of all the stupid things to happen... the deep prey animal instincts suddenly started waving red "FLIGHT FLIGHT OH DEAR GOD FLIGHT" flags as he caught a glimpse of orange and black out of the corner of his eye.  The sunglasses, which had become quite askew in all the Deathly assault now completely slid off his bill as he gaped at the hulking feline predator. A strange squeaking laugh squeezed out of his lungs as he tried to scoot away from the tiger from his seated position. 

              "G-good kitty! Look there's been a misunderstanding.  I know your stomach probably doesn't agree but..." He patted his hand to his chest with a strained smile. "I'm not supposed to die today.  Wouldn't you rather have a ham sandwich instead?" His back hit a display rack outside the local souvenir shop and the entire thing crashed over spilling it's contents all over. The tiger didn't seem to notice. "How about a nice steak? A hard boiled egg? Ah..." a little cylinder rolled to a stop by his hand and he grabbed it immediately as the beast bared it's teeth with a low growl. Gladstone's eyes slammed shut as he fired up the device in his hand, waiting for the first tearing bite. "not in the face not in the face not in the face".

              But the bite never came.  Slowly he opened an eye and saw the tiger's eyes wide, tail flicking madly, paws clamped over one another inches from his own feet. He slowly pivoted the device in his hand and the little red dot that was settled on the tiger's paws jerked onto the sidewalk and the massive cat launched itself at the light.  Gladstone held his breath as he swirled the laser pointer on the spot and lead the tiger away from his very precious living self and stood up careful to not draw attention to himself.  Once upright he backed into the nearest store and slammed the door shut finally allowing himself to breathe as he sagged against the door in relief.

               

              Perhaps if he'd known he'd taken refuge in One Armed Aster's Knife Juggling Academy he'd have been a little worried, but as his back was currently to the students with a banner reading "Welcome Butterfingers Anonymous" currently slashed to ribbons overhead... he was unaware that he was out of the proverbial frying pan.

               

              • Harmonizer
                Harmonizer

                A hand reached out from behind him... and grabbed Gladstone by the arm. 

                Yoink! 

                "You're finally here! Good, good. Come along now, you're five minutes late!" 

                Gladstone was shoved onto a stage, promptly strapped to a giant dartboard without even letting the goose get a word in. 

                "Alright, everyone, hush now!" Although, the Butterfingers Anonymous faction were not being noisy at all. They were all just... sort of nervous. This was, after all, their first class. 

                The man who'd grabbed Gladstone seemed to be a teacher, and he clapped his hands. "Today's pop quiz will be on basic knife throwing. Why do we have a pop quiz on your first day? Because a knife juggler should have already been prepared!! Let's give a round of applause to our brave assistant, Holey Henry!" 

                "Now, who wants to go first? Ha, I'm joking. You don't have a choice. You there, step up here and give us a little demonstration. I hope you've studied!" 

                The little boy that had been singled out had that face everyone would recognise. It was that "NO I DIDN'T STUDY I NEVER STUDIED" face. He pulled out his knives and fumbled with them as he walked up on stage. A few of them clattered to the floor and he scrambled to pick them up, dropping several more in the process. Things seemed to be looking bleak for Gladstone. 

                Something black materialised out of thin air in the corner of his vision. Death was leaning on his scythe, scrutinizing Gladstone intently. For some odd reason, it seemed like he could only be seen by the unfortunate and likely soon-to-be skewered goose. 

                The boy started to toss his first knife, but tripped on his own feet. As a result, all of his knives were sent flying towards Gladstone. 

                • Gladstone Gander
                  Gladstone Gander

                  There had been protesting SURE because GOSH those were a lot of knives!  But it seemed like nothing he could say would deter this... very disagreeable turn of events from happening.  He winced as the knives were dropped, winced again when they were picked back up, then winced when they were dropped again.  When Death reappeared the gander gave him a look of complete acidic loathing before a blade whipped right past his face, trimming the ends of his eyelashes as it went.  There were a series of clunks that announced the other knives hitting their unintentional target but he just kept his gaze on hooded figure until the thudding stopped.  He swallowed thickly as just his eyes darted down to look at himself, all color leaving his face... oh my god they were all so close... but one had severed the bonds on his right hand and rather then sobbing (which he felt he had every right to do at this point) he took his freed hand grabbed the most uncomfortably close knife and started cutting himself loose, glaring at the students and the teacher furiously as if daring them to stop him.  He had a KNIFE.  Yes well they all did but he was an ANGRY man WITH A KNIFE.  Don't test me. His dominance asserted the glare returned to Death.

                  "Busy day?" He inquired spitefully as he released himself limb by limb.  "Does everyone get this much attention or am I just special.  I mean-" He shrugged lightly, causing one of the blades by his shoulder to shave off some lint from his suit jacket. "-I KNOW I'm special.  I'm down right unique, one of a kind... but... I kinda think the endless 'you' traps are a bit childish... don't you think?"

                  "Uh but we haven't finished with the less-"

                  "Shh." He hissed abruptly. "I'm having a very important conversation with an anthropomorphic personification right now if you don't mind.  Thanks."

                  Snkt 

                  The last strap was cut and very carefully Gladstone removed himself from the perforated board, pushing past pimply and nervous looking butterfingers as a rain of knives erupted in his wake.  Bits of steel flared all around him like flashbulbs but Gladstone had one aim in mind, ignoring it all. He stomped up to Death, drew in a deep breath and... clasped his hands together in front of his chest pleadingly.

                  "I don't wanna die. I'm pretty sure I've got a whole lotta life left in me.  Can you call off the hit parade please? Is this supposed to be some kind of hard earned paranormal life lesson about how greed and selfishness have no place in a miserly heart? Because I missed the other two apparitions and I think you have the wrong guy, you're probably looking for my Uncle.  Top hat, spats? Arrogant streak the size of the Klondike?" You're one to talk Gander. "Because I've learned my lesson WOWWIE are my eyes OPEN.  So how about we go our separate ways and... I'll see you like... one... two hundred years? Sound good?"

                  • Harmonizer
                    Harmonizer

                    Death checked the death scroll again, and as expected, the name had vanished once more, only reappearing again seconds later. 

                    He sighed deeply and looked hurt. Instead of responding to the Third Stage of Grief, he instead decided to say this; "Do you really think I am responsible for this? I don't kill people. People get themselves killed. I'm just doing my job in guiding the souls of the departed. Oh, why do you mortals hate me so? All I want is a smile and a thank you. Is that too much to ask for?" 

                    Fortunately, Gladstone would not have to listen to more of his lament. Because you see, the floorboards were old, and, for a Knife Juggling Academy, they were very poorly maintained. And they suddenly broke under Gladstone's weight with a loud CRACK. 

                    Unfortunately, right below the floor were where most of the rather pointy knives and swords were kept. Pointy sides up. Racks upon racks of pointy pointy metal. But, also fortunately, there was also a nice mattress. 

                    What are the chances that Gladstone would get a soft landing? 

                    • Gladstone Gander
                      Gladstone Gander

                      Gladstone had just decided to sneak away while Death was distracted, suspecting the no one can out run Death but when was the last time anyone tried hmmm? when the floor gave out. With a startled "WAK" the goose fell like a ton of mortal bricks and normally (or as close to normal that Gladstone ever got) he would have landed right on that mattress.  The chances were always heavily in his favor... but today was... weird.

                      Other than the basement  being essentially a bladed murder pit that would make even Negaduck fan himself it was dusty. And really having a head cold as he did the dust would have to be substantial to make him sneeze, but it was.  Gladstone sneezed so hard the closest sharpened implement rocked off balance and tipped just right to start a domino effect of shiny pointy stabby things.  His hand reached out suddenly and found the handle of a sickle lodged in the ceiling as the cacophony of chaos smashed around below.  He hung to the hooked blade like a petrified worm during trout season as he watched the last self tip over sending six dozen hand daggers slamming into the surface of the mattress where he... "normally"... would have landed. 

                      "Okay." He wheezed to himself. The boards overhead groaning again as the entire class gathered around the hole to peer down nervously. "Ookay~ I'm sorry I was..." not ready to die? Not considerate to your feelings OH HARVESTER OF SOULS?! "...rude? W-what-" He brightened up suddenly. "What if I play you! That's a thing right! Playing games! I win, you don't... do your thing?"  The classmates all looked at each other worriedly. 

                      "Henry did you hit your head? What are you talking-"

                      "Shut it!" he snapped both figuratively and literally as he removed one hand from the sickle to snap his fingers impatiently at the greenhorns. "I'm not Henry and you all should get a refund because this place is unsafe I mean really who stores knives BLADES UP! CRAZY PEOPLE!"

                      "Takes one to know one..." muttered a voice above.

                      "CRAZY? You're calling ME? Crazy!?!" fumed the completely sane man hanging from a sickle who was screaming at the air and... oh but oops that sickle was sliding out of the beam.  Why was it even there to begin with? Probably target practice gone awry.  Soon Gladstone was falling again.  This time landing on a downed bit of shelving instead of sharpened throwing weapons.  The shelf did splinter though, and he was going to be bruised, also the fact that the sickle slammed down in the wood beside his temple did nothing to ease his temper. He glared up at the hole and pointed at the ceiling the metal reverberating in his ear. 

                      "I challenge you to a game Death! Don't be a chicken!" 

                      • Harmonizer
                        Harmonizer

                        Death looked down, a skeletal hand covering the bottom part of his hood, as if he was worried for the gander. 

                        "Err, are you alright?" He seemed off his rocker. Maybe he needed- no. Can't go being all soft right now. He had a job to do, and this gander was just making things difficult. 

                        The sudden insult got Death's attention, but he wasn't impressed. 

                        "Me? Chicken?" 

                        Death laughed, a deep, hair-raising, eerie laugh that chilled even the people who could not see nor hear him. He then leapt down into the hole to join Gladstone, then used his scythe to hook around his collar, holding him up to eye level. 

                        "I've had over a millennia to acquire knowledge in many fields. That includes knowing when someone is being desperate to get out of a deadly situation through lies and trickery, Mr. Gander." 

                        Technically, he'd only learnt that a few years back with that annoying purple caped duck, but he wasn't about to let Gladstone know. 

                        "It's time you come with m- oh, come on," he grumbled as his Death senses tingled. Well, more than they were already tingling like crazy from this goose's odd dead-alive plight. Far off, someone had just drawn their final breath. 

                        "I'll be back," he told Gladstone as he dropped him back down unceremoniously on the ground and disappeared again. 

                        Just then, someone had decided to go over to the hole to check on 'poor crazy Henry', and the tremors caused by his footfalls caused more random sharp objects that had joined the sickle's fate during target practise to break free and rain down on Gladstone. All missing, but just barely. 

                        • Gladstone Gander
                          Gladstone Gander

                          "But-that-trickery?!" He blustered, to the now literally empty air and even as the rain of pain crashed down around him he gesticulated angrily to the world in general. "HOW AM I LYING?!"

                          "On  your back?" Supplied a helpful voice from above.

                          OH that was it.  Brushing off ninja stars, hand axes, and... was that a hand grenade?! he got to his feet, dusted himself off, sneezed again, and stormed off toward the stairs.  He did not do this quietly.  He grumbled incoherently the entire time.  Completely ignoring several more attempts to pierce him by completely inexplicable means.  Before too long he had burst out of the front of the most STUPID juggling school in the HISTORY OF THE WORLD and was stalking down the street.  The zookeepers had managed to wrangle the tiger into a cage but it still managed to take a swipe at the goose as he passed, missing of course but... STILL.

                          Gladstone sulked at a street corner, he could already see one horse drawn buggy going out of control about to rampage towards him and further up the street a purse snatcher running with his gun clumsily swaying in the goose's direction. With a heaving furious sigh he stepped out into the street without looking, without waiting for the signal and not caring in the least (Gizmoduck would have been horrified).  Cars piled up around him, tires narrowly missing taking his head off, a drone with a broken propeller nearly came crashing down on his head, an alligator popped up from a manhole snapping it's jaws with freedom, just to have Gladstone hop over it moodily.  In all honesty  there could have been a little black rain cloud over his head and he wouldn't have been surprised. 

                           

                          This was an awful day.

                          • Harmonizer
                            Harmonizer

                            Death was starting to get a headache. 

                            It had never been this bad before. He'd decided to try and focus on the rest of his work, but he could not help getting distracted with his senses going haywire and popping up in the background each time Gladstone had a Near Death Experience™. It happened. Things like this always happened. A child could be drowned only to be revived quickly. A man could escape death by a crashing plane narrowly missing him by a hair. Just not... every five seconds. And with his name constantly showing up on the list, blinking in and winking out like a spastic twinkling twinkling little star! 

                            He was supposed to be dead. All of Death's being could feel it. And, yet, he was not. He could not understand it. 

                            "Uh, sir...?" 

                            Death looked down. 

                            A bewildered and translucent man was staring at his own dead body, whom he'd walked straight into a tree that retaliated by falling down on him just moments ago, in bewilderment. "I donno what happened. How do I get back?" 

                            "Oh, sorry." Death drew his scythe. "It'll just take a moment..." 

                            Slash! 

                            It probably wasn't the 'back' this man wanted, but Death supplied what he could.

                            He watched as the spirit disappeared, then sighed and pressed the palm of his hand against his head. Things had not been this bad before. 

                            It occurred to him; what if he was starting to lose his touch? His edge? Maybe the stress of overworking had finally done a number on him, and his glory days of having mortals cower in his presence were over. Although, that didn't sound so bad. 

                            He could not think about that right now, though. He had a job to do. 

                            Gladstone had just narrowly missed another giant falling piano when Death appeared out of thin air once more. 

                            "Just so you know, I don't like this either," he grumbled, folding his arms. "Please, just... make up your mind. It's not that hard." 

                            • Gladstone Gander
                              Gladstone Gander

                              As if narrowly being smushed by a Steinway hadn't made him jump high enough the sudden reintroduction to the chest rattling bass voice made his feathers stand on end in addition to hopping from one foot to the other to spin around to face the specter. 

                              "I've already made up my mind. I don't want to be dead!" He whined. "It'd be a bad look for me, I know it.  Just because I actually have friends now that would SHOW up to a funeral doesn't mean I should host one." He kicked a piano key moodily and started typing on his phone. "Who even has pianos anymore?" He asked the visage beside him testily. "Least of all an endless supply to throw at me?" His shoulders sagged and he started walking not even looking up from the screen.  "Do you know how to spell 'Testament'? Also do you know how valid a text message Will is? Because..." a slab of concrete that was being hoisted by a crane shattered the sidewalk inches in front of him. His nerves were shot, he was nearing the acceptance/dark depression stage of mourning himself now, so he just gave it a withering glare and side stepped what he could. Construction workers swarmed around him asking him if he was alright but he ignored them, opting to continue talking to the apparition that no one else could see apparently.  "-because-" He continued testily. "-I should probably have SOMEthing on paper.  ...figuratively. Wait-" He stopped dead in his tracks. (not literally, that'd be too easy) not even paying attention to the electrical wire that suddenly severed and swung past his head he pointed at Death.

                              "What do you mean you 'don't like this either'? Isn't this your... whatever the skeleton equivalent of bread and butter is... " why did he want to say spaghetti? "Unless..." his eyes lit up and he pumped his fist in the air. "Maybe I'm cursed! Oh is that it!? Did I win another cursed death talisman that's trying to off me all the while my luck is tripping it up? You didn't show up that last time though... you were probably busy." He looked at the half typed 'currently living Will' he had typed to Lilly and saved it to his drafts.  He was feeling much better about this now. "You know this sort of thing happens to me all the time.  Spellcasters and curses and violent super villains all want a piece of me." He dusted his shoulders off, pieces of plaster and pebbles falling from his outfit as he adjusted it. "What can I say I have a knack.  Okay so... what can we do to figure out what's going on here so that i can stop having brushes with you and you can stop having near me experiences? Do you have like... omnipotent vision? Or like... a crystal ball...?"

                              • Harmonizer
                                Harmonizer

                                "T-e-s-t-a-m-e-n-t. And it is about as valid as a suicide note, just make sure you title it 'My Will' and sign it off. And I told you, I'm not-" Death started to say again, feeling irritable. Why did everyone always point fingers at him? But then the silly goose finally realised it wasn't his doing. Sometimes mortals could be so hurtful. 

                                A curse? That would make sense, actually. Death's annoyance at Gladstone shifted to whatever, or whoever was responsible for this madness. 

                                "Who do you think I am, a fortune teller?" he scowled. His face was obstructed by the hood, but it did feel like he was scowling. "I only come for the souls of the departed. I do not know where to-" 

                                He disappeared again. A mini earthquake started right after his departure, but it only seemed to affect Gladstone, spitting lava and trying to make him fall into the abyss. 

                                Also a shower of hail briefly started. Here's your personal black rainicecloud, Gladstone! 

                                A minute later, Death reappeared. 

                                "Sorry, that was rude of me. As I was saying, I do not know where to find the source of a curse. You'll have to find out yourself. Do you... happen to know anyone who could help?" 

                                • Gladstone Gander
                                  Gladstone Gander

                                  The goose gave him a slow blink, dangling from a downed lamppost over the abyss, hail stones tumbling out of his hair as he shook his head in disbelief, the heat of the lava making his jacket smoke slightly. 

                                  "Me? I mean..." he tried to scramble onto the side of the lamppost that was farther away from the lava... really this city's geography was so STRANGE. "...I know... like... a few witches but..." he swung back and forth trying to get a toe on the lip of the crevasse and just barely managing it.  "...I don't know if tracking death curses are their area of specialty." He used his awkward stance to fling himself back up onto solid ground, which immediately crumbled  beneath him and he had to scurry on all fours to keep from falling into the hole.  In a fit of frustration he picked up a bit of stone and chucked it into the lava. "What is this place on an inactive volca-" a lightbulb went on over his head, eyes going wide. "-no. Huh." He crossed his arms frowning in thought. It was a terrible idea but... but of all the witches he knew... she was probably the one who would know the most about these things. He eyed Death and extended a hand to him. "I think I might have someone we might be able to talk into helping us track down the people responsible.  Do you think you can do that fancy vanishing act on me too? It'd save us a lot of time and airfare, besides I doubt they'd let you check that-" the motioned to the scythe.  

                                  "Anyway... I know exactly where she is... want me to draw you a map?"

                                  • Harmonizer
                                    Harmonizer

                                    Death watched Gladstone in concern until he was back safely on solid ground. 

                                    "That won't be necessary. Just state the location, or the name of the person, and I'll take you there." 

                                    He would regret extending his hand to Death. For when the entity accepted it as soon as he had his answer, his grip was cold. And it wasn't just cold, it was a full-blown icy, uncomfortable kind of cold. But he would not be able to pull away as Death pulled him closer, and everything suddenly got very chilly. All of them probably not helping Gladstone's head cold. 

                                    And then, poof

                                    Not even a quarter of a milisecond later, far, far away in a little hut on Mount Vesuvius, that same poof sounded from the inside of the shelter. 

                                    • Gladstone Gander
                                      Gladstone Gander

                                      That precarious little shelter was prone to poofing.  Mostly explosions from potions gone wrong or misfiring wands... but the occupant of the house was not even close to adding the claw of chimera to her latest brew and that was usually when things started getting explodey.  She blinked and looked at the jar of gold dust in her hand and recoiled, ugh what a stink. Maybe it'd gone bad?  She thought for sure that her ingredients were all well away from expiring... it smelled like a corpse in here-

                                      "Ms. DeSpell, sorry to just drop in unannounced-" came a chipper (and slightly malicious?) voice behind her and she jumped, the jar falling from her hand and tumbling toward the cauldron coating everything in a shimmering fine layer and she glowered as the glass glubbed into the now inert liquid she'd been slaving over for weeks. 

                                      Magica whipped around to glare at the gander and had to cover her beak to keep from retching. 

                                      "Ugh... you? What are you doing here you simpleton, what is that STENCH? Have  you been rolling around in rotting newt tongues?"  She rushed to the window throwing it open, much preferring the volcanic air so she practically hung outside taking frantic deep breaths.

                                      "Stench?!" Gladstone huffed, rubbing the last of the frost out of his fingers. "What you talking about? I always smell like a million bucks which is exactly  nine hundred ninety-nine thousand nine hundred ninety-nine MORE dollars than you've ever had." He punctuated this with a sneeze and shivered, ugh... that trip was unpleasant, he gave Death a weary look and moved toward the fire. 

                                      Magica blinked at him. 

                                      "Are you... sick?" She asked curiously, was that a tone of... worry in her voice? Gladstone lifted his eyes to her just as she started hysterically laughing.  She nearly tipped out of the window in her wild glee and he rolled his eyes irritably. "The lucky Gladstone Gander? Pffftttttthahahahahahaha~! Got a little cold?" She kicked her feet in merriment. 

                                      "Oh stuff it. Look I..." he crossed his arms stubbornly. "...I need your help with something." Magica stopped laughing.  But only for a moment before she burst into hysterics again. Gladstone scowled at her then motioned to her angrily to Death. "Do you see why I hesitated to bring you here? She's impossible."

                                      "Look Ratface, the gander has finally made a friend, even if he IS invisible." Magica giggled and her raven familiar squawked in amusement. 

                                      Gladstone felt his temper flare and in a moment of pure rage filled clarity noticed a small rock on her mantelpiece, one with a hole in the center. Ah...ha. A wicked smile played across his face as he snatched it up and tossed it in the air a few times. 

                                      "That's right, me and my invisible friend just decided to pop in and pick your brain..." He held the rock up to her face trying to ignore how wide her eyes went at his closeness, but then he saw the look of pure horror wash over her features and he almost felt bad for her.... almost.  She did topple out of the window though, but she scrambled back up to her feet gaping at where she'd seen Death through the seeing stone then stared at Gladstone. Her features clouded over in fury and it was his turn to recoil in alarm.  The furious witch pulled herself back through the window, grabbed her broom and started smacking Gladstone with it repeatedly.

                                      "YOU IDIOT! WHY!" Whap. "DID!" Whap. "YOU!" Kersmack! "BRING!" Crack! "HIM!" Fwhomp! "HERE!?" 

                                      • Harmonizer
                                        Harmonizer

                                        Death watched the interaction between the witch whose home they'd just invaded and Gladstone with interest. Humans were funny, strange creatures. But they still fascinated him. She seemed to have a thing for him. Why hide it? He'd have to ask Gladstone about it later. 

                                        "Do I really smell that bad?" he asked, sounding hurt, as he turned... more solid and visible. To the eye of someone who wasn't about to die anyway. He did not see any point of being invisible any longer. "And, technically, he did not bring me here. I brought him here per his suggestion." 

                                        Not helping, Death. 

                                        "I would also advise against bludgeoning him with your broomstick, Miss DeSpell. We suspect he has a curse placed on him." 

                                        • Gladstone Gander
                                          Gladstone Gander

                                          "Hexes and vexes! Why didn't you TELL me?" Magica exclaimed at the broom beaten goose. Wait did that mean she really did care- "I just had this broom re-bristled! If your curse has jinxed it I'll shear off that fluffy mop ontop of your head." She bopped his already mussed hair with the broom handle for good measure but he was far too interested in the sudden... opaqueness of his new acquaintance.

                                          "You... could make yourself visible at ANY TIME?" He rose to his feet heatedly. "But you made me look like a crazy person muttering to myself for hours?"

                                          Magica giggled but coughed into her hand as the goose's ire was turned on her. She straightened up and kept her face impartial as if her entire home wasn't being permeated with the ghastly odor of the underworld. 

                                          "Well, I'm glad to hear this is a casual visit and not a professional one Lord Death, I hope to not see you for many years." A cold look was sent to Gladstone. "I was hoping the same for you too." She flipped her hair over her shoulder and plucked some herbs from the drying rack and threw them into the fire, a fragrant smoke filled the room and her shoulders relaxed slightly.  It would cover the smell, not get rid of it completely, it wasn't a natural stink after all. "It is a distinct miasma," she confirmed briskly to the grim reaper as she sat on a nearby stool, taking him in like an eager pupil. "... one I won't soon forget. A curse you say? Well, it would be a curse that gets you stuck with Gladstone Gander, how can I help and... what do I get in return?"

                                          "What? In return!? How about ME not dying?" as if on cue a rusted out nail broke in half, the heavy iron cauldron it had supported overhead falling neatly in the spot he had just vacated.  Magica's eyebrows lifted and she tapped a finger to her bill in unfeigned interest. 

                                          "Is that what the curse is about? Trying to kill you? With your insufferable luck? What do you have to worry about? It's him-" she motioned to Death. "whose time is being wasted. So.." Her eyes slid to the reaper as a dark smile crossed her lips. "...what will YOU give me to help Lord Death?"

                                          • Harmonizer
                                            Harmonizer

                                            "There was no point in making myself visible before," Death shrugged. He then started to take in his surroundings curiously before turning back to Magica. She was... actually being nice and respectful and not freaking out, wow, he felt really good all of a sudden. 

                                            Although... he could sense negative feelings in mortals. And she seemed to harbour a lot of those. It was... almost dark. He stared at her, long enough for it to be rude even if it was not his intention (nor would he care), until she spoke to him again. 

                                            "Err. Did you want me to ask if he would give you a kiss?" he prompted, not fully understanding what the devious witch was implying. He had just felt compelled to say that. The tension between them was so strange. Even though it was nothing alike, he was reminded of his old flame. How odd. 

                                            • Gladstone Gander
                                              Gladstone Gander

                                              As calm as Magica was several things happened that made her placid countenance, however shallow, falter. The first being the silent stare. Death was just a skull she knew, so there were no eyes to watch her under that hood but, she could feel them prying and she didn’t like it. The second thing was the reaper’s offer of repayment.  She stared at him blankly clenching her jaw and finally looking away quickly with a scoff.

                                              “What kind of ridiculous-“

                                              NO WAY AM I KISSING HER.”Gladstone had finally found his voice, and he found it loud and angry.  “What is this?” He gasped suddenly and started backing away pointing a trembling finger between the two of them. “This was your plan all along wasn’t it! YOU PUT THE CURSE ON ME!” accusing finger point at Magica. “And YOU-“ This was aimed at Death. “Put that lava at the bottom of that freefall to make me THINK about volcanoes!” He tapped his temple with a knowing narrowing of his eyes. “I’m too smart to fall for your tricks.”

                                              “Weren’t you the one who brought Death into my house, Mr. Clever?” The witch fixed him with a flat look, one that suggested if her hair were of a more serpentine nature that he’d be a smart statue in a garden somewhere by now. Her mood lightened dramatically when in his haste to put the pieces together he backed into her wall-mounted knife block and almost had his toes cut off for his genius.   She turned her attention back to Death.

                                              “I’m not interested in him. Not for anything more than his luck and how to mold it into something I can use for my own means. But you… I think we can make an arrangement.” She hopped off the stool and started toward Gladstone who pressed his back flat against the wall.

                                              “I have a girlfriend.” He blurted out suddenly. 

                                              “How very unfortunate for her… I’m sure she could do better. Is she invisible too?” Magica retorted and gave him a little smack on the arm to get him away from her real target.  She picked up a big black book and placed it on her podium flipping through the ashen gray pages until she patted a page and turned to Death with a smirk. “Ah, here we are, I wanted to make sure I got the wording right I know how literal you otherworldly types are.” She pointed to an illustration of a black rose. It was so dark the longer you looked at it you could swear it changed color to a deep blood red. “I’ll figure out who put this curse on the fool in exchange for a single sanguine rose they only grow in YOUR garden don’t they?”

                                              “What are you going to use it for?” Gladstone tried to peek at the page and got shooed away.

                                              I’m going to lure your girlfriend away with it and put her in a tower, what I do with it is my business.  These are my terms. Take it or…” The concoction in the cauldron gurgled suddenly and a thick molten blob shot out of it towards Gladstone's head. The goose ducked just in time to dodge but the oozing burning liquid landed on the hem of Death’s robes instead. “-keep him.” She jerked her thumb at the goose with a little grin. “It makes no difference to me.”

                                              • Harmonizer
                                                Harmonizer

                                                Death looked genuinely confused. "I apologise. I had no idea she was your ex. You both had looked like you needed a nudge in the right direction-" 

                                                This is why you aren't Cupid, Death. 

                                                And again with the accusations. Death held up a skeletal hand to his heart, - well, where his heart should be. He did not have actual organs themselves - looking affronted. "You keep hurting me with your words, Mr. Gander. I already told you I had nothing to do with this. Whatever would I gain from lying?" 

                                                Then he turned away huffily. "You mortals, however, lie far more in ways I could never fathom. How do I know you aren't masterminding this?" 

                                                That was supposed to be a dramatic finger in Gladstone's direction. However, he'd forgotten his current solidness, and it also sent a box of toad eyes flying towards the unfortunate gander. 

                                                "...I'll pay for that." 

                                                Several coins, foreign, ancient and one or two corroded with age, were set down on a table as he glanced towards the page Magica had opened to, his hands behind his back and his brows (again, in a figurative sense) drawn together as he examined the illustration. 

                                                Yes, that was a rose that only grew in his garden. The picture, which was already hypnotising, did not do it any justice. The real deal was much, much more than this. 

                                                And he knew exactly what even just one of them are capable of. 

                                                "Hmm. I see. I know it wouldn't be any of my business either, but if it causes someone's demise in your hands..." he glanced pointedly at Magica. "You'll be seeing me again very soon." 

                                                He looked down that the mess that was now ruining his robes and he sighed, brushing it off. 

                                                "But, otherwise, it's a deal." 

                                                Black mass swirled in his hand until it took form of the sanguine rose. The petals swirled like a black hole, and it seemed to drain colour from its surroundings. Looking at it for too long would feel like it was... drawing you in. Death held it out of reach. 

                                                "First, help us track down the real culprit, and it's yours. You have my word." 

                                                And Death never broke his word. 

                                                • Gladstone Gander
                                                  Gladstone Gander

                                                  Magica had watched the toad eyes pummel the goose with a forlorn sigh.  She had just bought those, and had finished sorting them according to size and potency this morning but when antique coins were offered as payment she rushed over to look, pushing the eyeballed Gladstone aside haphazardly. Ooo.  These would do very nicely.

                                                  The instant the rose appeared the sorceress started making grabby hands, her eyes wide and twinkling. Gimme gimme gimme.  She only hopped once or twice, trying to grab it from the far too high grip,  heels clacking on the floor on reentry before she composed herself. She coughed into her hand and flipped her hair over her shoulder haughtily as if she hadn't just been trying to snatch an extremely rare and, until now, completely unobtainable magical object from the grim reaper's hand like a rowdy five year old harassing an ice cream vendor.

                                                  "It's a deal." 

                                                  Gladstone was grabstoned and forced onto the stool the witch had recently occupied herself.  He didn't go quietly, but once she scolded him he sulked into submission as she went off to fetch some wands and god knows what else. The goose let out a heaving sigh, eyeballs tumbling off his shoulders in the process and fixed Death with an apologetic look.

                                                  "I'm sorry if I upset you. Um... today has been very... hard for me to say the least." An eyeball bounced off his bill from his hair and he glanced at the sorceress who was humming merrily to herself thinking of all the wonderful (read: terrible) things she could do with that rose as she gathered her supplies, before leaning in toward the reaper and carrying on in a whisper. "She's not really my ex. She lied to me, played me for a sap and put on stilettos and stomped on my heart. But you can see she knows her stuff... that's why I brought you here. ...I also appreciate the fact that made her sound even more like an ex." he sighed heavily and ran his hand down the length of his bill. "...it's very complicated."

                                                  "What's complicated?" the witch in question demanded as she returned placing a pile of trinkets and worrying looking bottles on the nearest flat surface. Clearly she didn't really want an answer as she grabbed the goose by the bill clamping his mouth shut and dumping a bottle of green liquid on his head, the moment it hit the air it puffed out like spores and hovered for a moment before flashing bright yellow and clinging to a previously unseen splattered mess on top of his head and dripping down the sides of his face.  The overall effect was  like he was being swarmed by amorous fireflies.  Very whimsical!   She lifted an eyebrow and tilted his head back and forth as he glared at her. She ignored him and looked at Death. "He's been hit with something alright.  Although it's... very messy. Is there any rhyme or reason to the means of attempted murder? Or is it... more like freak accidents in the making?"

                                                  • Harmonizer
                                                    Harmonizer

                                                    "No harm done," Death said evenly. "I've known worse people. I've even been cheated out of an hour before." 

                                                    He still could not figure out how to do that finger trick. It was irritating, to say the least. 

                                                    "Hmm. Well, I'm sorry that had happened to you. I had no idea. However, you were mature enough to seek her out for help despite it all, which is wise. The priority right now is making sure you are saf-" 

                                                    Death paused. 

                                                    "I'll be right back." 

                                                    Poof

                                                    It was only after Gladstone was splattered by the potion did Death return, just in time for Magica to see him when she turned her head to speak. He peered at the outline of the otherwise invisible spell on Gladstone's head, and drew his finger across it. More chills for Gladstone! 

                                                    "If it had been an attempted murder, I doubt the spell would have been flung that way. Would it not have made more sense to hit him from the back or the front? This looks like it had been dropped from directly above him, or... it could be a wayward spell. I know most wizards don't practise OH&S in spell testings; it's almost like falling bullets. I've had to collect a few of those victims before. It is very messy." 

                                                    Was it just him, or did the supposedly inactive volcano just rumble very slightly? He glanced out the window cautiously but nothing seemed to be happening. Yet. 

                                                    "Is there a way to remove the curse, before we track down the culprit? It would be best, for the both of your safety." 

                                                    He bent down to examine the spell on Gladstone's head again. 

                                                    "Maybe if we shave it." 

                                                    • Gladstone Gander
                                                      Gladstone Gander

                                                      The rumbling drew more than just the reaper's eye...s-sockets as the avians also sent a pair of worried glances out the window as well.  Was the thick black spire of clouds always there? Hah...ha... hm.

                                                      "Yeeeeeeeees." Magica said slowly as she released her hold on the goose to start rifling through her collected supplies. "I think lifting the curse should probably come first..." 

                                                      Gladstone shivered and sneezed several times at the chill that ran through him at the Deathly touch and he hugged his torso, teeth chattering slightly. 

                                                      "N-nobuh-body's cutting m-my hair!" 

                                                      "You'd rather continually almost die then?" Magica inquired dryly.

                                                      "Yes."

                                                      "So vain." She whacked the top of his head with a wand and he flinched, reaching up to grab the abused spot only to have his fingers smacked with the wand as well. "Don't fuss now, I'm going to see if I can lift it without-" she cut herself off with a momentary panicked look at Death but shrugged it off with a little twirl of her wand hand.  "-nevermind! Now... 'Fatum! Dimittas! Vale! Final fate forget this soul and let this fool reprise his role' " The wand sparked as she bonked it against his head again and for a moment the splattered curse seemed to shrink but it soon was still again.  Magica tapped the wand against her hand and peered down the length of it. "Hm. I could have sworn I got the hand motions right on that one." There was nothing for it, she'd have to consult with... er... "distract him." She whispered to Gladstone before she smiled brightly. "Ohh how silly of me I forgot to brush it with leshen oil be right back!" And dashed out of the room.

                                                      Gladstone blinked after her then up at Death.  

                                                      "So.. uh... crazy... weather we're having?"  Nailed it.

                                                      Death would feel a pull, a wrongness coming from the area the witch retreated.  Magica lifted up a floor board in her bedroom and removed a small bundle of rags.  Inside was a glass jar holding a swirling light, a pale blue entity trapped within and she gave it a little shake.

                                                      "Wake up. What's the proper posture for removing doom spells?"

                                                      The sleepy soul inside the jar let out few wheezing ethereal sounds and she held her ear up to the glass to listen.  It always helped to have another witch to compare notes with... even if the other witch was a soul you'd trapped before... well.. her current house guest dropped in on the corpse.