Mines of Chaos
The black basalt walls, tattered banners scrawled with sickly runes, and rows upon rows of desks. Light floods the empty room from crooked candles and dim torches, and silence leaks from a heavy stone door set in the far wall, just slightly ajar.
The door creaks open and within dozens of twisted figures crowd around a table stitched together from flayed skins, still screaming their last lament.
Hushed voices speak with disbelief, in a guttural language of caws and screams.
“Dark Gods, he’s actually doing it!”
“One more to go, no one move!” “He’s not gonna finish, there’s no way.”
The gnarled fingers of a demon are poised in the air, delicately wrapped around two cards held in a pyramid. A bead of sweat rolls from Switchblade’s quaffed mane to the bridge of his nose. He leans over the table, holding his breath, and with the care of a mother tucking in her child, he places the cards atop the tower.
Everyone holds for a moment, watching the card pyramid teeter as it finds balance.
The demon underneath the tower twitches in his sleep and it sways, first one way and then the next.
Artie bites the tip of one of his claws, “C’mon, please! Daddy needs this.”
Clive, the slumbering demon stretched out on the table, lays still, and all fifteen levels of the tower stop swaying.
The entire office roars. Switchblade is tossed into the air as his coworkers cheer. Niel is reaching for a bottle of champagne when the door to the break room is slammed open.
“What in Hell in this?” Manager Raxatrix stands, all five of her fists clenched, green smoke issuing from her snout. “I leave for five minutes and you start acting like children! These are the Mines of Chaos, not some funhouse for you to practice your party tricks! I can’t believe you’re wasting company time- is that Administrator Spinekeeper?”
Clive sits bolt upright, the card tower collapsing on his head. “What, yes, I’m here!”
He looks down at the cards surrounding him, some dampened by the pool of slobber he’d made.
He turns to Switchblade. “How many levels?”
“Nice, bro!” Clive high fives Switchblade and the two dozen demons of the office cheer again. The champagne cork bounces around the room and and Niel starts pouring skull challaces for everyone.
Raxatrix sighs and walks out of the room.
Artie and Harrison sit either side of a jagged basalt altar, each playing Minesweeper on their old Lennox monitors.
“Nah but she was totally looking at me.” Artie chortles and clicks a bomb. “Crap.”
“In your dreams. She was checking out the Upper Devils behind us. We were invisible.” Harrison says.
A skin wrapped folder slams down on the table. Raxatrix looms over both of them. “I need three copies of these documents on my desk. Do it now or someone gets eaten.”
She glides away and the two turn to eachother. “Pitchfork tail horns?” Artie suggests.
Harrison pulls pitchfork but Artie pulls horns. “Ah, c’mon! I did last time.”
“Hey, I didn’t make the rules! Plus, I have important work to be doing.” He starts a new game of Minesweeper as Harrison snatches up the documents.
The printer was a short walk away but it still left him puffed. He saw that the marble sarcophagus was not alone at the end of the hall, but the panel on its side was being used by an eighteen foot tall Thresh Demon. Harrison recognised her from around the office - Banumaglichot had the highest numbers of anyone who wasn’t a Greater Devil.
Oh gods, he thinks. What could I say to seem cool? Hey baby, you come here often? No, that’s stupid, I’ll just-
“Printer’s jammed.” She says, without looking at him.
“Oh, crumbs.” He says before he can catch himself.
She raises a horned eyebrow. “I guess someone’s gotta go down to IT then.”
“I’ll go!” His voice pops as he says it.
She chuckles. “It’s not far, I’ve got it.”
“Why don’t we both go? Make a thing of it.” His words were not delivered with the confidence they required.
She looks at him for the first time. “Suit yourself.”
Down in the winding caverns below the office building, they find the spiked brass doors labeled: IT. The room beyond is a fetid cavern hung with rusted blades.
Several demons armoured in wrought iron are holding chains wrapped around a lashing beast that drips green ichor. On its head like a jaunty hat is a wifi router.
A short demon in a cable knit sweater spots Harrison as he enters. He waves the sizzling brand he holds in one hand.
“Harrison! Hey buddy! It’s been so long, dude, how’s it hangin’?” The beast spits black bile at his wrought iron shield but he hardly notices.
“Oh hey Sean, how are things?”
“Pretty good! Haven’t seen you at the LAN parties in a while. Level 50 raid coming up this weekend, you free?”
“Oh, haha, that sounds… yeah that sounds awesome but I have this… thing” he glances to Banumaglichot, who is staring down the Router Beast. “Maybe next time.
Actually, I’m here for work stuff. The printer on seventh is busted and we - I was hoping-“
“No can do, child of darkness. Got issues with all the routers in the building, plus Beelzebub’s ridin’ my ass about this system update. There’s a whole line waiting.”
“Well that’s fine, I understand, it’s just that I have these documents that my boss needs copied and-“
“There’s no corner cutting my man, we run a strict ship down here. Unless” he raises all three of his shoulders. “You know of a certain Paladin free this weekend for Conquest of the Bloodlords.”
Banumaglichot was wrestling with the router beast now, trying to shove its head into an amethyst encrusted manacle.
“I really can’t, I just have so much work piled up.”
“That’s fine man, I guess those documents can wait, and I’m sure we’ll survive fine without you.”
Harrison grimaced. “Okay, yeah fine. I’ll be there.”
“Radical my guy, and don’t forget snacks! Gotta feed the beast if you know what I’m saying.” He laughs like someone lazily pumping bellows.
“Thanks Sean, seeyah.” Harrison gives a meek wave as Sean plunges the brand into the screaming creature’s scales.
Banumaglichot releases the beast and dusts her hands on her tunic. The router thrashes wildly, its clubbed tail tossing a smaller demon out a window into the caverns below.
“Uh yeah, easy. They’ll have it fixed ASAP.” He smiles at her but she’s already halfway back to the elevator.
Inside, Banumaglichot gives a gold coin to the operator and they begin to ascend.
“That was awkward,” she says in a matter of fact tone.
“Yeah, Sean’s a hell of a guy.”
“Your character isn’t high enough level for that raid, right?”
“Oh, how did you-“
“I have an alt account you can use if they need a Paladin.” She holds out a stone tablet engraved with screaming faces, all glowing putrid green. “Give me your details, I’ll send you my login.”
“Th-thank you, you really don’t have to-“
“Don’t mention it.” She stares straight ahead, as if discerning something hidden on a clouded mountaintop.
He taps his name onto the runes and hands back the tablet.
The loud clunking of the elevator does little to drown out the silence between them.
“So what are those documents anyway?” Banumaglichot asks.
Harrison looks down to the folder in his hands, still freshly dripping with blood. “Oh, they’re um…” He slips the folder open. “It’s a firing report, effective today, for uh…”
In jagged black glyphs, with perfect lettering, was the name Banumaglichot the Bonechurner.
“For no one.”
“They’re firing no one?”
She turns to him, frowning. “Let me see.”
“I don’t know if that’s-” He had already handed it over.
She remained frowning but impassive, scanning every inch of the folder. “Misuse of company resources, signed Administrator Clive Spinekeeper.”
“Gods, I’m so sorry Banumaglichot. This is a terrible way to hear. Atleast you’re high ranking, you can get another job easy someplace else. Maybe the Pits of Bahoon are hiring.”
She looks him dead in the eye for the first time. “You haven’t been here long, have you?”
Harrison purses his lips and shakes his head.
“Demotion would be okay, I can work my way back up, but if I get fired then I’ll return to the screaming soulpond I was tortured in for another thousand years. And I’ll lose dental coverage.”
“I had no idea, that is so terrible and - wait did you say Administrator Clive?”
Harrison pushes the office doors open with as much might as he can muster. He hopes that they slam open and draw all eyes to him and Banumaglichot but she still has to push them a bit to get through.
He slams the files with a squelch onto Raxatrix’s desk, sending her macchiato flying onto Artie.
“I’ve got your number, Raxatrix Eyespikes!” Harrison had heard this line back when he was mortal and had always wanted to use it.
“What are you playing at, underling?”
“It’s what you’ve been playing at that is… what’s important!”
Banumaglichot was making direct eye contact with the ceiling. This is not a metaphor, but is still representative of her embarrassment.
Raxatrix sighs, “This is a firing report, Harrison. I don’t know why it’s on my desk.”
“Well that’s just the thing! This is a fake report!”
Harrison looks to Artie, who gasps dramatically.
“Explain.” Raxatrix’s mouths were set in unimpressed lines.
He flips the report open and points to the final line.
“Read this, please.”
“By the authority of the Depths of the Nether Court, in the name of It’s Dark Sanctitude, the Greater Thresh Devil Banumaglichot the Bonechurner will be fired forthwith on the grounds of the misuse of company resources, signed Administrator Clive Spinekeeper. What’s your point, Harrison?”
“Administrator Clive!” He looks to Artie, who gasps again with markedly less enthusiasm.
All work in the office had ceased and eyes beyond count were on him.
“For twenty years I’ve worked under Mr. Spinekeeper, and for twenty years he has consistently forgotten his rank. He has no clue that he’s an administrator.”
“On memos he just signs his name ‘Clive’. If you’ve been good he draws a little man skating,” says Artie. The office mumbles assent.
“I never get the little man.” Switchblade sighs from his desk.
Raxatrix pushes back her chair and rises to her full height. Although shorter than Banumaglichot, she stands twice as tall as Harrison. “Twelve thousand painstaking years. For millennia I have served diligently to uphold the Laws of Perdition, and now some insolent rat is questioning me because he has to hots for an Upper Fiend. She’s been siphoning souls to an offshore account in the 5th layer, Harrison.”
“But… but the signature.”
“Administrator Spinekeeper hasn’t signed a document for four thousand years, unless it pertains to a Bachelor watch party he’s hosting the following weekend.”
Harrison, his brows pitched like a tent, looks from Raxatrix, her eyes trailing smoke, to Banumaglichot, who holds the exact expression one makes when it was in fact them who had pooped in the pool.
“Woops,” she says.
The silence in the room takes its time meandering from demon to demon. Harrison opens his mouth to speak when the door to Clive’s office thuds open. He stumbles in holding a yoghurt cup in each of his hands.
“Woah, what’s with the energy in here. Lighten up guys! Oh, unless someone died. That sucks, dude.”
Raxatrix smiles thinly. “Administrator, perhaps you can help with this situation. Who signs all of your documents?”
Clive chuckles, “Well not me. It’s you, isn’t it? Or am I mixing you up with my other assistant?”
With bridled fury, she turns back to Harrison. “And this demon here, Banumaglichot.
You ordered her fired, yes?”
“Oh, hey Banu. Yeah man, you gotta chill it on the soul stealing. Wouldn’t have noticed if I hadn’t tried to buy a mini fridge for all of my yoghurts.”
Now she smiles with full menace. “I think that settles it then.” She flicks a hand towards Banumaglichot. “You can go.”
Harrison turns to leave but feels a powerful hand grip his shoulder. “Not you, underling. We have business to attend to.”
Harrison stands knee deep in green ichor. The iron armour he wears is rusted and ill fitting, and stained with the stench of sweat.
“And so that’s when the Warlock of Shadathar said that I was the one to lead the Crusade of Darkness, and I was like no way man, I’m an elf of Tirathel and your dark magic has no effect on me. Gave me like two thousand XP for that one choice, dude. I got to level 30 in one night, it was awesome. Watch your left!”
Sean points to a HDMI shark leaping out of the ichor. Harrison ducks and it bites off the arm of a nearby demon.
“Man, I can’t wait for you to see the new setup. All HD monitors and surround sound, gonna be so sick-” He keeps talking but the words fall on deaf ears. Harrison takes a deep breath of squalid air, hefts a bundle of cable in one arm, and squelches on through the tunnels that wind their way through the bowels of the Mines of Chaos.