13: Diligence Is Its Own Reward
student is reported dead of "neck rupture," the usual euphemism for
vampire attack, and Juliet, Billy and Walker go to watch his grave and see if
he rises. Alex and Diligence go to the Miskatonic Library's rare books room to
see about a librarian stricken with amnesia.
is attacked by a zombie, who looks kinda like a vampire but who just grunts
when she stakes it. Uh-oh ... zombies are slow, but very strong, and this one
manages to throw both Walker and Juliet away, confronting Billy face to face.
Billy waits for Juliet to whack the zombie, and when it turns, tries to behead
it with a knife. This doesn't work, but does make the zombie mad. So he chases
Billy around, while behind Juliet, the grave opens and the vampire climbs out.
Billy tries to decapitate it, too, and that doesn't work either.
runs to a nearby restaurant, Vesuvio's, which has outdoor tables. She takes
some salt shakers and makes a ring of salt around the zombie, trapping it. When
Professor Armitage arrives, he praises Juliet's insight, speaks a few Latin
sentences, and poof! the zombie crumbles to dust. Seems it was animated by a
resurrection spell like that used by wizard Whateley, whose house Julie and her
friends blew up some time back.
zombie totters down the street, and Walker fights it until Professor A can
return it to dust. This one was coming south along Federal Street, so the guys
head north, regretting that the more studious of their number are missing all
course, they're not. Marcus Pope whizzes the brass stepladder along its track
way too fast, slamming into the far end hard enough to dislodge a huge
brass-bound book which falls on his head, knocking him senseless. Diligence stares hard at a book on a
glass-topped display case and falls into a trance; Alex looks, too, but she's
able to see through the glamour and see that the book is, in fact, not there at
all. Someone's left behind an image of the book which baffles the minds of
those who behold it -- now two of three are mental casualties and someone's
knocking at the door.
stiff-legged zombie staggers in the door, then someone else's hand flicks off
the light switch and locks the door. Alex snaps Diligence out of it, and the
zombie pursues them, tripping on Marcus' prostrate, babbling body. While it's
down, Diligence climbs the brass ladder to the top, kicks it away and starts
reciting the reversed Resurrection spell. Alex tries to keep the zombie busy,
which isn't hard, because it's pretty stupid. Then the spell is done, and poof!
is great, except the door's still locked. And Diligence falls down from the
ladder, and picks up a strange wound in his shoulder. By the time Alex cuts
through the door with her super-sharp knife (sharpened by the atomic sharpener
from the Weird Warehouse), Diligence has wounds in both arms and one leg, and
is suspecting he's being attacked by voodoo. Alex calls the hospital; Diligence
recovers long enough to suspect Indian student Homer Chandrasekhar of being an
avatar of Nyarlathotep, faints again, and goes to intensive care.
goes and finds the others, who weren't finding any zombies anyway, and they
return to the hospital. Diligence is dying, with wounds appearing out of
nowhere in his heart. A doctor is holding a shiny curved weapon which Alex
thinks is obviously evil, so she interrupts the proceedings with a couple of
weird interruptions. But it works -- he doesn't get his chest sliced open.
Which allays Alex's fears nicely, but since Diligence needs his chest opened in
order to survive, there's a definite downside.
Professor Armitage arrives and uses a healing spell to stop the progressive
damage. Alex uses a spell of similarity to detect where the voodoo fetch is,
since it by definition has a powerful link to Diligence's body. And it does --
in fact, it's in the old Whateley house!
is gotten back on his feet and totters off with the others. The collapsed,
burned house has two entrances (well, three, but no one's willing to use the
chimney) -- the back window and a gap in the pile of collapsed boards out
front. Juliet takes her sword and goes first, finding a zombie whom she
beheads. Sure, it doesn't stop the zombie from moving, but it does knock him
down until he can be de-spelled.
sneaks down the stairs to the basement, which is where the wizard's lab was and
which is of course perfectly intact. There's a shadowy wizard in a corner,
commanding a mob of thirty zombies. Apparently he sent the zombies to the cemetery
earlier to dig up more bodies to make more zombies, in what Professor Armitage
characterizes as the "old zombie pyramid scheme. Never works, at least not
one has worked enough that the room's full of freaking zombies, though, which
is a problem. Juliet sneaks up on the wizard, who appears to be Diligence, but
an evil Diligence, with a scar and stuff. She turns her sword and smacks him in
the head with the hilt hard enough to flip him right over his workbench and
into the mob of zombies. But he gets
back up -- apparently, this Diligence is a lot harder to kill than the other
Diligence tries to reason with him a little. That doesn't work. Evil Dil sends
his zombies at our heroes, and although Juliet is the Slayer and Walker quickly
turns into a werewolf, there's still THIRTY of them -- it's all they can do to
keep the zombies away from Alex, Professor Armitage and Diligence. Billy, of
course, is sneaking up on evil Diligence from behind ...
remembers that if you know the command word of zombies, you can control them,
so he shouts, "Diligence! Stop!" and while the real Diligence is
wondering why he should stop, the zombies halt in their tracks. There follows a
rapid-fire exchange of commands to the zombies, until evil Diligence commands
the zombies to "kill them and DON'T LISTEN TO ANY MORE ORDERS!" and
that's pretty much it.
whacks evil Diligence and finally hits the sweet spot -- his head comes right
off! It doesn't fall, though. Diligence peels his face off, revealing the Mask
of Nophru-Ka beneath the skin. Diligence has been consorting with ancient
powers of evil (hence the robbery of the book from Miskatonic) and
unfortunately, Nophru-Ka's spirit is much more powerful than his, and as his
identity flickers out forever, he gloats that the Black Pharoah will destroy
Black Pharoah's eyes lock on Walker and try to take over his body. Professor
Armitage slams the door to the furnace providing all the light, and suddenly
Nophru-Ka can't see his victim any more. Juliet spots the glowing red eye of
the mask and throws her Crusader sword right through it, knocking it out and
dispelling the evil spirit before it can claim another body.
... that was the Diligence from the evil warehouse?" says Marcus. "Wow.
... or was it?" says Billy, looking at "our" Diligence. Not that
Diligence notices, because his attention is captivated by all the carvings,
alembics, censers, zombie command fetches and, of course, all the evil BOOKS