Heads Will Roll

It was a very peaceful, very early morning on All Hallows' Eve. A day most people would anticipate. 

Most people who did not have errands on that certain day that spelt impending doom if not completed, at least. 

Tak tak tak

The sound of tapping on the windowsill pierced the room of its slumbering owner. Maybe if she ignored it the sound would go aw- 

Taktaktaktaktaktaktaktaktak-

As soon as the window was opened, there was a flutter of wings, and a raven swooped into her room, circling the ceiling a few times before dropping a bound, ancient scroll on her bed, scattering dust and feathers. He then perched atop the curtain railings and started to preen himself proudly. 

Upon inspection, the message, in bold, serif font, read as follows: 

Dear Ms. Briar Grimm, 

I hope you are doing well. After all, you have to be prepared for the matter at hand, as we have discussed previously. 

Well, it was more that he mostly spoke, not letting her get a word in, and then disappeared, leaving her in that café with the two lovebirds snogging. 

Unfortunately, I am unable to join you and assist you today, as I have very urgent business to attend to. So I will be sending over my son to be your partner. I hope you will be able to cooperate well and collect all the lost souls before midnight. I would wish you both good luck, but I am... feeling very pessimistic about your success rate. 

P.S. Please accept every cookie he gives you, and do NOT ask him about his eye. 

The raven started to hop around the room curiously. Noticing something shiny and bright, he flew over and started to peck at it. 

    • Mother Goose
      Mother Goose

      Happily for the raven, the majority of Briar's bedroom was shiny or bright or glittery, so the messenger had plenty to play with before Briar finally noticed the wandering corvid in her just-woken-up haze.

      "Hey! Shoo!" she shouted at the bird pecking at her ribbon collection. "You leave that alone, you big feather duster!" The witch bit back a groan at the loose black feathers messing up her pretty pink princess aesthetic."Ughh..."

      It could only be Death's bird.

      Who else would send a raven with scroll, stamped with a skull-embossed seal?

      Honestly.

      She'd only met the skeleton once, which was overall a terrifying experience complete with evil scythes and haunted vegetation but ended oddly pleasantly in cute little diner? Death had stuck her with the check before disappearing, which was amusing in a dark kind of way. (She guessed there were no pockets on those robes.)

      Not good he was sending her personal mail.

      Fumbling for glasses on her bedside, the goose skimmed the letter. Aside from the general upsetting idea of Death having more important things to worry about than actual lost souls, one worrying part stood out:

      'SON'.

      Death had a kid?!! With who - and... how??? And what was wrong with his eyes?? There were a lot of questions to be explored and Briar wasn't sure that she really wanted the answers.

      At least there would be cookies...?

      "...how long do you think until Death Jr gets here?" Briar asked the raven. The temptation to hide under the covers and pretend this wasn't happening was strong.

      • Harmonizer
        Harmonizer

        The raven ignored Mother Goose and continued to peck peck peck at the ribbon. Soooo shiny~ 

        He only perked up, a bit of a glittery-yellow ribbon in his beak, when Briar spoke to him. 

        "...caw?" he tilted his head to the side, acting dumb. After getting a response from her, he burst into noisy laughter and flapped onto the dresser. "I'm sorry, it's been a while since I've messed with humans! You have no idea how many of them want to kill me! Name's Steven, assistant to Death and his sons. When is Victor arriving? Hmm, let's see... it won't be long. He has trouble with teleporting, personally the other one is better at it but he had to help his dad so he won't be showing up. Buuuuusy time o' the year!" 

        Downstairs, there was a quiet, ominous knock on the door. Although the knocker probably didn't intend for it to be. Letting her deal with answering the door, the black bird started nosing around her belongings. Particularly the rounded, beady ones or shiny sequins. 

        "Oh, by the way, do you happen to have any eyeballs? You're a witch, right? You definitely have eyeballs. I won't turn my beak up at eye of newt." 

        • Mother Goose
          Mother Goose

          She really shouldn't have been surprised the bird talked, but it still gave her a jolt.

          Especially when it laughed at her.

          Clearly the raven had learned tact from its master. No wonder everyone wanted to murder him.

          Though judging by the general mange, angry mortals wouldn't have to wait long for the raven drop dead. "Steven?" That was a terrible name for a raven. "Should it be Quoth or Nevermore or something spookier?" Mother Goose frowned at the bird. "Sons? He has sons?" As in multiple, more than one? How many baby deaths were lurking in the streets?!

          "Don't be so stereotypical!" Briar snapped. She did, in fact, have nice bowl of eyeballs chilling in the fridge for trick-or-treaters, but she wasn't going to tell him that.

          The witch eeped at the sudden knock. It seemed to echo, getting creepier and louder.

          He was here.

          She threw a bathrobe over her pajamas and crept down the stairs. "Um- hello?" she whispered nervously, barely cracking the door open.

          • Harmonizer
            Harmonizer

            "Oh, don't be silly, he only has two!" Steven snorted. "And also, rude? Just because I'm a raven doesn't mean I should be associated with books written by a sad man! Ah like mah name!" 

            Despite Briar telling him she didn't have eyeballs, the raven continued to poke around the place with his beak. "I'm sure you have 'em somewhere..." 

            When she answered the door, a very cold breeze, along with the familiar stench of Death greeted her. Followed by... something else that didn't belong. 

            The happy smell of freshly baked cookies. 

            "Hello!" 

            A tall, thin vulture with long silver hair parted over his right eye peeked back through the crack with a shy smile, just as an ominous flash of lightning and a clap of thunder sounded behind him, making him look skeletal and horrifying for a moment. 

            "It's me, Death's son. I'm Victor, but you can call me Vio. Nice ter meet you. Can... uh, can I come in?" 

            • Mother Goose
              Mother Goose

              It was hardly fair for Steven to be calling her rude.

              "I certainly don't keep them in the bedroom," Mother Goose insisted. There were brightly wrapped foil stamped with pupils in a dish, but those were only cleverly made-up chocolates.

              Briar slammed the door.

              Oh no.

              Oh no. Nononono, she didn't- That was Death's son, she couldn't just shut the door in his face! She'd have to nail it shut, get the bricks up, escape out the kitchen window...

              But there was no running from Death.

              "Muscle spasm," she apologized weakly, cracking the door back open. The goose tried to rearrange her face into a welcoming smile, but worry edged all around it. "Please..." she swallowed hard. "Come in..?"

              • Harmonizer
                Harmonizer

                The next time she opened the door, Vio was still smiling, but looking a little hurt. 

                "Tha's o'right," he said, accepting her apology and stepping in. Her lovely little home started to stink up a bit as the stench of Death invaded ever dark corner and crevice. "I, uh, I brought you something. Made them myself this mornin'." 

                He held out a ziplock bag full of chocolate chip cookies. Very fresh, warm, gooey chocolate chip cookies. But it was held in a way like he was expecting her to smack his hand, or grab the cookies and toss them out. 

                There was a loud crash in the kitchen, which made him jump and disappear behind a curtain... not that he was doing a good job, being inky black purple against the pastel fabric. 

                "Oops. I mean-! It was... uh, it was broken already," called Steven as he flapped out from the kitchen, looking as innocent as can be. Except there was a sparkle of foil, and some chocolate stain on his beak. 

                "Steven?" Vio peeked out from the curtain. 

                "Hey! How's my favourite boy doing?" Steven chuckled as the vulture hugged him happily. 

                "I've missed you! Is Vic treating you well?" 

                "Ah, same old, same old," Steven waved a wing. "Hey, do you have eyeballs?" 

                • Mother Goose
                  Mother Goose

                  Death did say to accept any cookies.

                  And they did smell good...

                  Briar took the bag, trying not to offend the junior reaper anymore than she already had. Thankfully, he seemed to have put his skin back on but it was terribly awkward just standing there in the hall. She was almost thankful the raven was making a nuisance of himself, if only because it gave her an excuse to run into the kitchen.

                  "Steven! Out, OUT!" The witch shouted. "How'd you like to be a blue bird? One that only goes cheep, cheep?" she threatened, carrying Vio's cookies, now nicely plated on pink serving dish. A coffee pot followed behind her, pouring a cup of sweet coffee that was immediately made sweeter by a truly ludicrous amount of cream, foam, and sprinkles.

                  "Um, Vio," Briar asked. "Would you like coffee, or tea, or juice- I wasn't really expecting anyone this early, so I don't have anything made... but I could whip something up if you want! If you want. Do you want- I mean, haha, you've brought all these cookies, I just..."

                  Now it was awkward again.

                  • Harmonizer
                    Harmonizer

                    "I ain't done nothin' wrong!" Steven protested as he perched on top of the curtain railings again, hopefully out of reach. 

                    "I am so sorry," Vio apologised as he followed Briar into the kitchen, even though he was not at fault. "I'll pay fer any damage, and... I'll help clean up..." 

                    He pulled out his wallet and cringed slightly; he'd forgotten to exchange for American Dollars. "Um... would you accept euros? An' coffee will be fine, thank you..." 

                    Although, upon taking a sip, he immediately regretted it, but he wasn't Death's son for nothing. Keeping a poker face, he managed to swallow down the cavities-inducing beverage without gagging or writhing on the floor, foaming at the mouth. 

                    "It's okay if you jus' woke up, ye don't have ter give me anything!" Vio held up his hands. "My father tends ter ferget mortals sleep. After all, he only collects them when they, uh... you know..." 

                    He blushed slightly, a black-purple tinge on his cheeks as he started playing with his hair. 

                    "He wants ter make sure you have better reflexes than, uh... last time... by the way, Death wants ter know, how is Fluffy?"