Gathering Storms
rating: +26+x

Entry 0921

Date: Ekrev 14th, 3121, Fraumvay

08:00 hrs.

Today is Fraumvay, the worst day of the week for a number of reasons, namely that happy hour starts almost at midnight, time at which any sensible person would already expect to be intoxicated. Showing up sober at such a time is thus a death sentence for any semblance of good taste, the venturing fool forced to wade through crowds of dancing cretins, wanna-be socialites and other unimaginable unpleasantries.

Fortunately, men with enough experience will always stay a step ahead of adversity, meaning I have already cracked open what supplies I gathered in days past; preparation is key to surviving any drought.

Step out the front porch with my drink in one hand and my .22 carbine in the other. That paper boy better have the goods.

I've always said a good paper boy, girl or other is vital for keeping a neighborhood running, as vital as good neighbors, as vital as a mandatory retirement age for strippers. Get your news early, all of them: the good, the bad, the worst. Better to know early in the morning what kind of shit awaits you past the safety of your front porch; that way you'll always know what face to wear to work.

Paper boy is right on time, as always. Wave him farewell with the non-threatening hand. I didn't spill a single drop, meaning it's time for another round. Then maybe some breakfast.

Read the newspaper as I pour myself another glass. Fucks at Planasthai must be happy now that they get circulation beyond the Library. Let's see that front page.

Ah, there he is: that glorious fucker with the greasy toupé and the stained suit, one eye peering from behind that missing sunglass lens. Glad someone hired actual talent to capture the moment; wouldn't want the utter depravity of everything to go written but unseen.

"The Final Tour is Decadent and Depraved."

Blunt? Yes, but what else could I call such an event? An orgy of the grotesque? A carnival for the dead of spirit? Would never make it past the editors. They might be cheap idiots, but they are still The Man, and The Man always knows when to bring His fist down.

Or does He?

Don't think anyone is yet ready to forget #PlanasthaiIsOverParty.

Editors might be different, but who else is beckoned by such position of power but the lowest of the low? Always expect the worst from bureaucrats.

Better get that breakfast.

What fried bugs go best with Wyrm Whisky?


The newspaper hit the wall with almost slapstick flare, pages fluttering like a scared bird before lying limply on the ground. Taking most of the paper's front page, a lone title could be read in huge bold letters:

"The Final Tour is Decadent and Depraved."

Erwen Niffs, editor-in-chief for Planasthai Press, paced through his office like a caged beast, his three eyes occasionally glancing at the blasted publication that threatened to soil his efforts at restoring the newspaper's ailing reputation. Below the damning title, a picture of a profusely sweating Elvis impersonator stared back at him, mockingly.

How the fuck did we let this shit hit the printers? And in the front page, of all places!

Erwen could barely keep from pulling at his hair. What should have been a normal, fairly mainstream reporting on a music festival had instead turned out a scathing, vitriolic rant, a nauseating piece detailing the worst excesses of the Final Tour's organizers and concert-goers, a merciless attack on the greatest show in the Multiverse. One-hundred million copies had already been distributed to every Planasthai stand in the Wanderers' Library, where no power in the World Tree could keep them away from prying eyes; so much for winning back their readership.

A sudden knocking on his office door startled Erwen, followed by his secretary's timid, muted voice.

"Mis-Mister Niffs?" Aisha called. “Mr. Gathers is—"

"Dammit, just open the godsdamn door, woman!" A hoarse, gravelly voice rose over Aisha's. "I got better things to do than sitting on my ass waiting for some third-rate bureaucrat to make up his mind."

The door swung open, and the source of all of Niffs' ills came into view: 1.92 meters of scales wrapped in a loose-fitting hunting jacket and blue pants, crowned by a triumvirate of sharp, forward-pointing horns jutting from a reptilian forehead and snout. Two independently moving eyes gazed at him with unapologetic irritation, mouth clutching an unlit cigarette holder.

Duke Gathers, journalist and drug-addict extraordinaire, stepped into Erwen's office, ignoring Aisha's feeble attempts to stop him.

"I'm sorry, Mr. Niffs. He wouldn’t wait and—"

"That's okay, Aisha," Erwen tried his best not to lose his cool. "Why don't you go fetch us some coffee? Mr. Gathers and I have some… important matters to discuss."

Aisha closed the door as Gathers sat on the chair best accommodating to his form.

"Coffee, you said?" the lizard grumbled, his tail curling. "Better have it spiked with something good; hate listening to your yammering without some social lubricant. Always time for a drink. Now, what's this about? If you still want me to take over the obituaries, I'll need to see an advance first."

"I— no, it's not about that, Mister Gather— eh… can I just call you Duke?"

"Go ahead," the reptile said, flicking out a match and trying to lit a cigarette. "Try not to trip over so many letters. I know you editorial types tend to be literarily challenged."

"We— hey, smoking's not allowed in here!"

"Huh?" Gathers replied, expelling smoke through his nostrils. "Go figure."

He continued smoking as Niffs' face grew redder and redder, his own visage virtually hidden behind a curtain of filthy air.

"So, I'll repeat myself: what's this whole deal of dragging a man out of his home and into your fancy office with such short notice about?"


Niffs slammed a copy of the day's Planasthai onto the desk, square before Duke's chameleonic eyes. Another puff of noxious vapours left his mouth as he leaned in closer to gaze at the horrid title and picture that filled the entire front page, his expression unchanged.

"What about it?"

"It's— it's…"

"Glorious, I kno—"

"IT'S FUCKING HIDEOUS!" Niffs blurted out. "It's disgusting! Nauseating!"

Duke's face raised the reptile equivalent of an eyebrow.

"That's the whole point. Godsdamned concert was grosser than a nudist retreat for the elderly, and about half as fun."

"That's not what I meant! Your take on it is what disgusts me! Your writing! This is not what we sent you there for!"

"What the fuck were you expecting? Detailed commentary on each and every "artist" with the required half-brain to play there? If you wanted something along those lines, you should have sent Ragnar."

"Mister Hallson is dead, you know that. He went down with Ascendor and their fans when the gods they'd killed returned for the rematch."

"So? You've never done a séance? Thought the journalists that signed for permanent jobs sold their souls to you fucks."

"The point is, Duke, that this kind of work is unacceptable! We sent you to the Final Tour so you'd report on the bands, the music, maybe write a review about the best light show… not attack the audience for having a little fun!"

"A little fun? Damn asteroid was about to crash on irreplaceable cultural heritage and—"

"Not the point, Duke!" Niffs interrupted. "Do you even know which artists played that night, the name of a single song? It's like you paid no attention at all!"

"It would have made no difference if I had; all those amateurs sound the same even if you're stone cold sober."

"This is NOT what we want at Planasthai Press!" the editor screeched at last. "This is NOT what our readership wants to read!"

"What the hell do you know about what your readership wants?" Duke scoffed. "Weren't you one of the bastards who tried paywalling Planasthai to the tits? How about you go try and tell them what they want?"

The reptile stood from his seat, clawed hands grabbing onto the edges of Niffs' desk, his entire body leaning forward. His face grew closer and closer as his eyes finally focused the same spot: two of Niffs' three eyes met Duke's steely gaze.

"I'll tell you what my readers want, you warm-blooded triclops fuck," the words came out as a hiss. "They want news that tell the truth. They want news that tell a good story. And more than anything, they want news that are raw."

He clasped the newspaper as if it were a weapon and held it a few centimetres away from Niffs' face.

"This, this is raw. The petulant posers that frolic about, alien to the irreparable loss they're celebrating. The revolting thing that is the audience, eating its own, shitting them out and calling it art. This is what you hired me for, what you thought your little dying publication needed to get back in everyone's good graces. Well, you called me, and I have delivered. And if your editorial control is so lax that a piece you hated got to the fucking front page… well that's your fucking problem."

The cigarette at the end of Duke's holder had burned down to embers, a thick, pestilent cloud enveloping both him and Niffs as the latter tried not to cough, a show of weakness he was sure the reptile awaited. Duke let go of the desk and, throwing the paper back to the editor, stormed out of the office shouting:

"Do as thou wilt, Niffs! Pull back the edition! Burn it to the ground, for all I care. You want superficial bullshit news? Call that little shit R'lek next time!"

He almost knocked down Aisha on his way out, quick to grab one of the coffee cups she was carrying and swallowing it all in one gulp.

"And your coffee tastes like ass, you cheap fuck!"

Erwen Niffs stared back at Aisha, who stood mouth agape with the remaining coffee cup still in her hand. Duke was right: he really could use a drink right about now.

Entry 0921 (cont.)

Date: Ekrev 14th, 3121, Fraumvay

17:30 hrs.

There are times when men become unwilling prophets, unknowingly predicting doom for themselves and all their kind.

Thus has today's newspaper become an omen of my own disgrace, delivered unto me by The Man, like it was by the paper boy before Him.

Guess I shouldn't be surprised. Like I said, The Man is still The Man; He can't change His own nature like I cannot change my own, and we are thus destined for nothing but to clash again and again, though the unfathomable designs of Fate may sometimes see it fit to force us to collaborate. Still, if this has been my last time working with Planasthai Press, it was well worth it just to see that three-eyed fuck's expression when I spoke my truth. Damned be the day I bend my knee to the likes of Erwen Niffs.

Climbed down the manhole in my living room and into the basement, faint light flashing at the flick of a switch to cover the walls and their occupants with ethereal warmth; my friends, my comrades, my unflinching allies welcome me: row upon row of polished metal tubes and elegantly crafted grips, silent now but waiting to speak the thunder. Maybe I should take one for a stroll…

Pick the one I call Helena and feel her as I get her loaded: heavy, voluptuous, almost obscene. Desert Eagles are guns made for the arrogant and insecure; shiny shit is hardly worth a recoil stronger than a mule's kick, or a lack of finesse that speaks for both the gun and its wielder. You want to look like a caveman with a rock? Get yourself a Glock for half the price.

But today I feel like spending some quality time with Helena, so good taste be damned.

Go to the back yard and set up some targets. Can't have ones filled with nitro in this neighborhood, so a few regular propane tanks will do.

Think about recent events while shooting; setting fire to the neighborhood seems like a perfectly valid form of protest at this point. The Man has brought down His fist on me, and I must fight back. A true knight, wield he sword, gun or pen, may lose everything: home, friends, life and limb, but never can he lose his spirit; a man who sacrifices his integrity has been truly lost to the corruption and the filth of this world.

Still, I fear the worst: that Niffs is right, that maybe I write in vain. What happens if even those who hear the truth cannot recognize it? What if they have drowned, swallowed by a whirlpool of lies and vanity, unable to recognize they've stopped breathing? I once swore to shove the truth down the throat of the world itself… but perhaps nothing would change, nothing at all. Perhaps posh, narcissistic fucks like Niffs and R'lek are what the public wants, the gods unto whose altars they will throw themselves in ecstasy; perhaps this world is no longer a place for truth to struggle.

Whiff some Naxatras both in celebration and mourning… and let's get back to blowing shit up.

Entry 0922

Date: Ekrev 15th, 3121, Geday

10:24 hrs.

Woke up late, sore and thirsty. Comedown syndrome is a bitch.

Phone was ringing incessantly. Niffs' secretary, the poor thing, called. Said her boss wanted to talk again. Bastard better have either another paycheck or an ass-kissing apology… or at least the guts to blacklist me himself. Nothing else will do.

Really hate editor types; any chance taken to bleed them dry is a service to society. Maybe should take Helena with me; do a Hemingway with it. That might carry the point across.

Hope the coffee's better, too.

The shit-eating grin across Niffs' face was the first sign of doom Duke noticed as he stepped into the editor's office, still wishing he'd brought a gun with him; at least blowing his brains out would have been an easy way out.

The second sign was undoubtedly the apology.

"And as you know, we are still trying to get things sorted out here at Planasthai; a few slips on the editors' part are… bound to happen; not that you could be to blame with it, no, no," the triclops spurted out.

Too honest, too pleasing… something's up, Duke thought, his guard as high as could be. First sign of Niffs ratting his drugs out to the feds, he'd jump right through the office's window.

"If anything, we should have established more specific parameters for what we wanted you to write, or at least consult you before jumping to conclusions about your… unorthodox piece, let alone publishing it on the front page. What I'm trying to say is, you are not to blame for our error, and I apologize for yesterday's…"

"Why don't you just drop the fucking act and tell me what this is about already?" Duke growled.

The smile on Niffs' face grew wider as his three eyes fixed on Duke's.

"Of course," he said in an unnaturally cheery voice. "See, Duke, I've been thinking… consulting with the other editors, and we have reached the conclusion that we are to blame for that hideou— err… unfortunately redacted piece. Thus, since you are blameless, and to show just how sorry we are, we wish for you to write another piece for us, one we could only entrust a lizard with your keen eye to make justice to. See, Marshall, Carter & Dark are having an auction this weekend and, for the first time ever, they're allowing the press to take a good look inside. We would love for you to cover it."

Duke's back straightened almost instinctively, nearly spilling the coffee he'd just spiked, both eyes pointing forward as his brain began racing. He should not be excited at all; poisoned honey could be an excellent bait for unsuspecting flies. But this… now this could be some news worth reporting on. What was even the catch here?

It took little more than two seconds before he gave in and words came rushing from his mouth.

"Fine," the lizard said, trying not to betray his growing enthusiasm. "I'll have your piece first thing next week."

Niffs' smile kept growing, yellowish teeth gnashing against each other.

"Not so fast, my friend," the triclops was on the verge of cackling. "Since we are still wary of another incident, we would like for this to be a joint assignment. A… co-written piece, so that we may have different perspectives that compliment each other and… well, you get the idea."

So, there's the catch: peer censorship, Duke thought. Still, maybe a rookie would be easier to swindle into letting him write the whole thing.

"Alright… tell my partner to get in touch with me when they fancy. Aisha's got my number. As for my advance, I—"

"Oh, no need for that, Mister Gathers. Your partner's already here; maybe you two can… start conversing about your angle."

Niffs pressed a small button on his desk while speaking into the microphone next to it.

"Aisha, please be a dearie and let our friend in."

Duke turned his head around as the door swung open… and his face turned white at the sight that awaited behind it:

A bug of a man filled the doorway, unnaturally tall for a praying mantis. Pale green chitin shone as if waxed, a gaudy scarf wrapped around its upper thorax. A pair of matching tinted glasses nearly hid its pinprick eyes, a smirk Duke knew should be impossible forming on its mandibles.

"Heya, Duke!" R'lek's voice blared, the sound of his clicking mandibles biting into Duke's very soul. "Long time no see! Ready to get to work? It's gonna be a blast!"

Entry 0922 (cont.)

Date: Ekrev 15th, 3121, Geday

15:15 hrs.


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