Chapter 31:

Chapter 31 - Satin and Denim


Even in the dark, Roulette could tell that the girl was staring daggers at her.

Her whole body was quivering, her sinuses straining to contain the sneeze. It was only a matter of time before some noise or another escaped her, though; she’d never had much occasion to master the art of staying quiet in a crisis.

Apparently recognizing this, her tomb-bound cuddle buddy took action: she deftly lifted one hand to her head, slipped off her beige topee hat… And crammed it squarely in Roulette’s face.


The seconds that followed seemed to last an eternity. The girl held her hat firmly in place, keeping Roulette’s grimacing features flush with the particles of snot and saliva she’d dispensed. She wasn’t sure that was necessary, but she also wasn’t sure that their pursuer had moved on… So she just waited, ever so patiently, until her fellow fugitive deigned to release her from her mucusy prison.

It took considerably longer than she would’ve liked.

“Nice one,” the girl eventually whispered, withdrawing her hat with a sneer. “That was brand new. Remind me to bill you for it when we get out of here.” Then she tossed it out of the sarcophagus to land among the assorted treasures beyond.

Roulette smiled thinly. “So sorry about that. Guess I’m allergic to bitch.”

The girl sat up, acting as though she hadn’t heard. “Ugh, is that a range-rat I hear trying to communicate with me?” she said. “I wish you’d had the presence of mind to form a complete sentence earlier–you know, after I saved your life? That way I’d have known to leave you. I know how hard it is for you yokels to muster more than grunt even at the best of times, though, so I won’t hold it against you.”

Roulette’s temper flared to inferno-like proportions. In the course of her young life she’d hated plenty of people, but this person? It went beyond hate. She gritted her teeth, trying to avoid fantasizing over the prospect of braining the girl on the side of the sarcophagus and leaving her to rot.

“Y’know, you shouldn’t talk to strangers like that,” she warned, her voice deathly chill. “You never know what they might be capable of.”

“Please. You think I’m afraid of you?” the girl replied with a toss of her hair. “The little lost lamb who was pissing herself in a corner a moment ago? Don’t make me laugh.” She stood up inside the tomb and straddled the edge, lowering herself back into the empty hallway with the same effortless grace she’d demonstrated earlier. “If you’re very nice to me, though, and can prove to my satisfaction that you know your place… I might be persuaded to allow you to help me escape.”

Roulette stewed in the sarcophagus for a little while longer, if only to bring her drive to attack the imperious blonde down to manageable levels. Then she followed the girl out into the hall, determined to divert the path of their discussion toward more neutral–and less infuriating–topics.

“So, anyway, whoever-that-was seems to have passed us by,” she observed, noting that a new set of footprints now mingled with theirs. She could see the imprints of toes and bare soles; it seemed that whoever was chasing them was disinclined to wear shoes. “Mind fillin’ me in on why they’re doggin’ our trail?”

“Oh, certainly,” the girl replied. “...Provided you ask properly. You may address me as ‘Miss Mimi’. And really enunciate while you’re at it, would you? Your folksy drawl is offending my ea–”

“That’s it,” Roulette interjected. “Good luck to you. I’ll handle this myself.” And, with that, she turned her back on the girl and made to head off down the hall.

“Hey! Uhh, you! Wait!” Mimi called after her. “I didn’t mean it! I’ll answer your questions now, okay? Just come back here!”

Roulette stopped in place and turned around, arms folded. “Apologize.”

“What? No. No way. I stand by everything I said. I’ll work with you, though, if I must.”

Roulette said nothing. She simply regarded her, brows arched, while tapping her foot impatiently.

“...Fine. Fine!” Mimi huffed. “I apologize. There. Is that what you wanted to hear?”

Finally, Roulette relented. As cathartic as receiving a real apology might feel, she figured that pressing any further would only agitate matters. As Daddy had always said: for some folks, gratitude is like their own soul–they’re hard-pressed to give it up, even when the reaper comes callin’. She meandered back over to Mimi with her arms still crossed, fully resolved to quit the conversation if it took a turn she didn’t like.

“Let’s start again,” she offered.

Mimi closed her eyes and took a deep breath, as if the simple act of being civil was going to expend every mental resource she had. “Okay. Hi. I’m Mimi.”

Roulette tilted her head respectfully. “I’m Roulette.”

“Great. Can we stop wasting time now, Roulette?” she said, plastering on a smile that was far too sweet to be sincere. “I would very much like to avoid dying here if that’s alright with you.”

Baby steps. “Agreed,” she replied. “On that front, the first order of business should probably be who’s after us and why. Got any insights?”

“As a matter of fact, I do,” Mimi said. “We are being pursued by a rejected scion of the Magocracy, who has awakened from his century-long slumber and been given a weapon of incredible power.”

Roulette blinked. “A rejected… A mage? We’re running from a real-life mage?

“Perhaps, Roulette, you’d be willing to clean the dirt out of your ears and–” Mimi started. She managed to reign in her worst impulses, though, (with obvious effort) before continuing. “Ahem. What I meant to say was that he is a rejected mage–as in, non-magical. If he were a fully-fledged wizard I would surely be dead already.”

“Okay… So, how’d he get his hands on ‘a weapon of incredible power’?”

“Oh, that’s easy,” Mimi declared. “I gave it to him.”

Roulette blinked again, then began massaging her temples. “You… Gave the mage a weapon.”

“Again, not a mage,” Mimi reminded her. “But… Yes. I did. I may not look it, but I am actually an accomplished Gunsmith. I came out here specifically to deliver my delicately-crafted weapon to its rightful owner, and what did I receive as a reward? The fright of a lifetime. Oh, and the untimely death of my master.”

Roulette looked up at her suddenly, eyes wide. “He killed your master?”

“Well, I suppose I don’t know for sure,” the girl admitted. “But what else can I assume? The weapon fires an infinitely long strip of cloth, you see. Once fired, it moves about on its own seeking sources of arcane energy. When it finds one–like my master’s imbued arcan chunk–it takes hold of whoever happens to be nearby, reels them in, and bundles them up in a trice! No doubt she’s lying swaddled in a hallway somewhere, either dead or struggling to breathe.”

“That’s terrible!” Roulette gasped, clapping her hands to her mouth. “Aren’t you worried? Shouldn’t you be tryin’ to save her or somethin’?”

“What do you think I was doing when I found you? Do you think I run around in the dark, backwards, in the outline of my own footprints for fun?

“Well, I don’t know!” Roulette exclaimed. “I was a little disoriented at the time!”

“Yes, I’d imagine that is a tragically common problem for you. Right up there with continually relearning how to dress yourself each morning!”

“Now, listen here–”

“No, BOTH of you listen…!” boomed an unfamiliar voice. The hairs on the back of Roulette’s neck bristled as she heard someone approaching from behind; someone who walked with slow, confident strides. She turned to see a tall stranger rounding the corner at the end of the hallway–the very same hallway she’d been about to storm off into after being subjected to Mimi’s generous serving of abuse. He was clad in nothing more than a simple linen loincloth and a grand ceremonial headdress lined with runic symbols.

He was also holding something: a rock, from the looks of it, though it did a stellar job lighting up the arcan to his left. His other hand bore a handgun with a rough, gritty texture reminiscent of their current surroundings.

“In all my days, I have never heard such incessant prattling,” he announced, coming to a stop less than ten feet away. “Are all modern women so unpleasant? Or are you uniquely gifted among your kind?”

Roulette and Mimi stared him down, neither one willing to make a move. What would be the point? If Mimi’s overview of his capabilities was accurate, they didn’t stand a chance–one misstep, and they’d be bundled up as tightly as Mimi’s master had been. What a horrible fate…

What an awful way to die.

To her surprise, Mimi acted first. She rushed across the hall and reached into the open sarcophagus, rooting around inside for something Roulette couldn’t see.

“Mimi–” she started.

The mages’ scion raised his gun, taking careful aim.

“Shut up!” the girl panted, running back to thrust something into her hands. “It’s up to you, now! Don’t screw this up, or so help me–”

Before she could finish, the length of magical cloth yanked Mimi off her feet. Roulette could only watch in horror as she was drawn toward her grinning captor, who watched with glee as the girl was lifted off the ground and spun up into a perfectly-bound prison of narrow white bandages.

For the second time that day, Roulette was left with no choice but to take off running into the darkened corridors of the labyrinth.

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