Murdock Allenthrope was an altogether mess of a man.
His family had abandoned him as an infant, he'd found them again as a teenager, and they'd abandoned him again as an adult. The family was too face and pomp to have to deal with common blagards like him.
He worked his ten hour shifts down at the Gearford Mills each day and came home to a small apartment worn and useless. He had been looking forward to a free weekend; the workers' union finally forced the company to stop the working weekend policy for labourers.
So here was a Mellday and Murdock hardly knew what to make of the time. His bed was rather tempting to return to, but he didn't want to feel the time was wasted. So, he left the flat with a cap and a jacket and headed down to find any establishment to patron.
Among his compatriots in the street were other workers rediscovering what a Mellday might hold for them. A bright day that would be sunny if it weren't for a few easterly clouds. Children were playing knucklebones on the sidewalk, couples were strolling gaily, and a few bobbies casually watched the populous.
Murdock was absolutely baffled to see such happy faces about. He almost couldn't stand it. It caused him to duck down an alleyway to find a grungier part of town. He was used to work and unhappy faces.
A few twists and turns down the blocks of lower Geaford landed him at an establishment known as Black Leaf and Earl . They specialized in strange sandwiches and harsh tea, precisely what he was in the mood for.
The gentleman at the counter had an unreasonably large mutton chops and razzled hair. A few old ladies, many working stiffs, and one lone high society gentlemen type sat in the establishment. It was a strange site to see.
What sort of shop ushered in such a diverse crowd?
He ordered an Upright Sunwollup Tea and a Chaddington. He had absolutely no way of knowing what these were. The shop keep wasn't interested in divulging either ingredients or flavours, as if these were state secrets no one would discover in a thousand years.
He found a table back by a bookcase which housed strange books on all sorts of subjects from travel to chemistry and theories on the origins of weather.
The first sip was a confusing, uncertain event.
He took a second sip.
It felt as though someone had punched his mouth with a gallon of sunny days and the particular joy you get from mischief.
This was the most fantastic cup of tea he'd ever... well, experienced. You couldn't call it drinking. He sat thinking that perhaps this tea was responsible for the origin of weather.
And what about the sandwich, a Chaddington? There was the typical thoroughfare: pickles, lettuce and shavings from some kind of root. However, the meat was an absolute mystery, and the bread looked a strange shade of golden blue worth the investigation of the department of health and safety.
He took a bite.
It was a strong, but balanced cacophony of flavour, soaked up by the bread before swallowing so as not to leave any particular taste when you'd finished chewing.
He sat here with his mind-blowing tea and satisfyingly light sandwich and thought to himself... is this what I've been missing on Melldays? He decided he ought to frequent this place most Melldays in an attempt to try every tea and sandwich combination.
He began skimming the origins of weather and moved on to some of the stranger books, all the while being taken aback by tea after tea, sandwich after sandwich.
The shopkeeper was closing up around three in the afternoon, too preoccupied to notice Murdock in the back still reading about the world of skuttlekovy, and why trying to mate with one is generally a Bad Idea.
After about ten minutes, there came a large explosion from the back.
Murdock ran to the back and through the small door behind the
He paused a moment to notice the large stack of teas now at his
reach, but his better self grabbed hold of reality and swung open the
He barreled down a spiral staircase leading down to what seemed
the depths of the planet herself. Then, an opening, a gigantic cavern
with a subterranean farm. Every turnip and tomato imaginable grew
here. This was what made up most of the shop's stock ingredients.
Smoke was trailing from one of the patches towards a tunnel just
behind Murdock. This being his Mellday off, damn it, he decided to
adventure on and discover the source of the commotion.
The aroma was fantastic as he passed the last remaining embers and
ventured into the tunnels.The dank recesses of Gearford were far
nicer than he'd have pictured them being. These were fully fledged
corridors! These could not have been old sewers, for the city needed
those too desperately to let any existing ones go into disuse.
Perhaps this is how the revolutionaries were so effective a decade
prior, he thought.
He came to a larger Tunnel that housed homeless folk, many seemed
to be demonic or diseased. A man in the corner was mumbling
"monsters" again and again while cradling a strange lump of
flesh that was possibly his arm.
"Excuse me, have you seen the proprietor of Black Leaf 'n'
Earl pass this way?" he asked a destitute.
"Ye mean Darren? I saw 'im" she directed him, "Knowing
his troubles, third left ahead. Gods speed to ya!"
"Thank you, ma'am!"
She smiled at the first person to call her "ma'am" in a
The shopkeep was indeed down this path, Murdock could hear him
arguing with a few others. He decided to listen in just around the
"Please, I simply forgot! How am I to help you if you burn
down the crops you wanted to to pay you with?" the proprietor,
An unknown voice replied in condemnation, "All we ask is a
few mushrooms from the inner garden. That is the most important part
of your tithe for use of the land."
Another chimed in, "So don't be late again! We do this for
your own good you know!"
"Lest the beast be welcomed in your gardens?" the first
unknown voice seemed to imply a threat.
"Yes, I'm sorry."
Murdock heard the rustles of movement, and in haste, scurried up
to the surface before being noticed.
So it was that Murdock's Mellday ended and from Lieday to Demiday,
he toiled and put sweat on his brow to the overseer's delight. Work
was not easy on the soul, but Murdock had found the only cure for the
monotony and suffering, tea.
The next Mellday, he waltzed into the establishment that saved his
soul and decided to save it.
The shop had a closed sign on it and Murdock was worried.
His heart sunk. He didn't want to imagine his favourite shop being forevermore closed. He couldn't stand idly by.
He pressed his nose to the restaurant's glass to see if anything was going on inside, but nothing stood out amid the darkened shop. Pressing his ear to the window revealed pronounced howls and screams.
That settled it for him. He needed to get down there to help! He ran around to the back alley behind the shop where a lone manhole sat.
As he struggled to lift it, the cover scraped and cut grooves into his hands. Inside, a "tunnel not in service" sign had been lodged into the tunnel to the sewers. His foot took made quick work of the warning.
He considered the sign long after it tumbled far, far down the hole. The dizzying distance it traveled before it hit the ground was an immediate concern.
Murdock stood up, gathered his courage, and remembered what the screams below were: a threat to the best thing in his life so far.
He lowered himself carefully into the shaft with his arms and legs pinned to the sides, small as the vertical tunnel was. There were faint impressions that suggested a former ladder.
He was starting to feel rushed as the growling grew in volume and anger. His feet slipped and the weight of his body was too much for his elbows to bear alone.
The tunnel let out into the open chasm, and Murdock was flung out into it. His overcoat caught on a sharp nob at the opening and swung him clumsily into the spiral staircase that brought him safely to this place the other day. As he took the hard way down, on the outside of the railing, he attempted to hold on. His hands, however, had been damaged during this whole ordeal and were in no shape to hold him anywhere.
The final drop left him tumbling into a thicket of herbs.
"What the hell was that crazy stunt!" Darren yelled out.
Murdock could see a gigantic grey ghoul, who lit up the room far more than the torches on the wall, inching his way toward Darren. The best plan he could come up with was to become bait. He grabbed a few parsnips and ran to the tunnels, to try and lure the bioluminescent beast.
"Here beastie, you hungry?" Murdock tempted.
The monster took him up on the offer, and adrenaline alone drove his legs to a sprint down to a set of real sewers. The stench made it clear, there was still waste flow traveling through. He ran further than his legs would go. In a morbid way, the drop off at the end of this tunnel was a relief. Several pipes fed into the large drop off below. The beast lurched forward to attack him at the same time his legs gave out.
The monster tripped on him, fumbling over the edge.
Murdock was just righting himself over by the sewer wall, when the beast climbed back up onto the ledge. Darren caught up and fired a volley of arrows from a crossbow that lodged themselves deep into the creatures throbbing growths.
When Murdock looked at the beast's face, he realized something.
This was a person. A vibranni to be quite specific; horribly transformed.
It cried in pain as it fell into the sewers below.
"Let's hurry to the shop and bandage you up before you try and risk your life again today," Darren frustratingly jested.
Murdock finally had the time to complain. "Ow... head..."
So the pair made it back upstairs for some bandaging and drink.
The shopkeep kept eyeing Murdock, grizzled face, not sure what to
think about his heroics. He wrung out a rag, poured the contents of a
bottle from the shelf onto it.
"Here, this'll help clean your wounds," Darren offered.
"What wounds?" Murdock looked straight to his hands as
one starts when inspecting themselves. There were bleeding cuts and
burns. There were likewise in other places as well, "Thanks."
"My name is Darren Pensworth. I don't recall yours."
"Murdock..." he dabbed a few spots on his elbow,
"You seem keen on helping me out."
"That I do," Murdock spoke with great sincerely, "The
Black Leaf has restored my vigor for this life; I'm not about to let
that slide to memory alone."
"Then I need to start at the beginning, new friend,"
Darren began handing him a cup of tea,
"I was a working stiff, like yourself or, frankly, most of
the inhabitants of this city. It wasn't long after the technocrats
came to power when they declared the nation ought to have an official
beverage, tea. I'd never had much tea, coming from the desert towns,
but once I had... I was captivated by the complicated, but subtle
"I was given my first cup by a strange fellow, a traveling
salesman of sorts, who came, went, and offered anything he could
anywhere he was. Unfortunately, most of my subsequent cups were the
dull and boorish flavors you typically find. Not completely boorish
or unpalatable, mind you, but simply not what I became enamored with.
"So while working for city sanitation, I wandered about one
day and discovered some monks tending to a garden. It had the
strangest and most fantastic plants I'd laid eyes on this side of the
ocean. I spoke with them many a time, bartering for some goods each
time. I found a passion for creating new concoctions, and found a
rather eager investor to fund me to make more.
"I went back to the monks and asked them for the land. They
were finally swayed, but in return I would always grow a particular
list of things, especially, they warned, the mushrooms. They told me
that if I ever failed to pay the tax, they would neglect the lanterns
which carry a protective scent. I did not believe them, until I'd
forgotten them one holiday and that ghoul devastated my crops.
"I've been trying to recreate the repellant, but I'm just a
bit off. He was extra hungry this time, so I think I may be lacking
Murdock nodded and took it all in, "So now you've got to get
the goods to pay the monks this month."
"Which the ghoul just destroyed?"
"Well your stunt was almost as destructive."
"Regardless," Murdock dismissed his comment, "I
know a place we can get mushrooms, or at least I've heard of it."
Darren knew exactly what he was referring to, "We'll be
killed if we're caught poaching from the damn Alice gardens! I don't
go to inner city snob town, and they don't show outer city folk any
"You're dead without the mushrooms, though, correct?"
Pensworth looked to have a thousand regrets all rolled into one
furrowing of his brow, "I'm going to regret this Mr.
Allenthrope. Meet me Demiday night then. And make peace with the
"I have peace as long as there's tea my friend."
So the night came to pass that they would embark on their suicidal
mission. Murdock and Darren made their way into the main sewer system
where the murk was thick as mud and fowl as the imagination will
allow you to picture. Thankfully Pensworth had some muck waders left
over from his sanitation days. It was bad enough to be up to one's
nipples in shit, but it would be another to have to ruin one's
clothes the meanwhile.
A more claustrophobic man would be in extreme duress over the
situation, Murdock thought to himself as the sewers became smaller.
The trip was no quick measure by any means. They traveled nearly 4
miles of undulating tunnel to arrive near their destination. The last
leg of the journey, like any journey, is one where you feel the pain
of the whole journey beforehand - balanced out by the goal finally in
sight. The ladder that would lead them to the heart of the Alice
gardens was just ahead. the sewers formed a sort of small hill up to
the ladder, and the water was much cleaner, or at least not as
They stripped the waders and put on some old plague doctor's
masks. They looked absolutely surreal. Two bird-like creatures in all
black crawling out from below. How strange they must seem. Or perhaps
not, for what they laid eyes upon was a sight to behold. The Alice
gardens were a sight worthy of it's reputation.
Neither of them spoke for a long time.
Darren broke the silence, "This? How could Gearford...
anywhere in Antiford look like this?"
It was the picture of opulence. Lush green grasses with tall
bushes and all sorts of flowers. In this area, there were tomatoes
growing up a beautiful wooden arch. They stared at the scene for a
bit, then began to bag some of the tomatoes.
A guard could be heard, "Hello? Who's there?"
Their hearts pounded like drums in their chests.
Murdock got a little cocky as he picked his last tomatoe, "Just
"Stop theives!" the copper said running towards them.
They hid behind a bush. The policeman was standing on the manhole,
which was their planned exit.
Daren was pissed "I'd hang you by the length of your idiocy,
but I'm afraid it'd be too excessive."
Daren went to peek over the hedge to see the current situation,
and his nose butted with something. The copper stood there nursing
his eye, about to yell for backup. Taking no time, Daren knocked him
square in the temple. The officer's body went completely limp hitting
the ground ungracefully.
"Think he's dead?" Murdock asked.
"I sure hope not."
They dragged him into a thicket to keep out of sight and moved on
to another few gardens. The largest garden was wonderment multiplied
by disbelief. The largest mushrooms they'd lain eyes on were standing
about like park benches. One mushroom was the size of a small tree,
some looked like umbrellas.
"The amount of water they must waste on this garden..."
Murdock disapproved highly, as he'd seen too many die of thirst in
the streets for this to make him feel good.
"Help me get some of the smaller ones, I've no idea what type
the larger ones are." Daren instructed.
"Let's take the motherload! The spore bearing giant!"
Daren was trying to hurry the operation up, "Hurry and help
me, we don't have nearly the volume of water that kind of mushroom
needs. I'm barely paying for it all as it is. I try not to get
anything that can't survive in the desert, because I don't want to
have to explain to an auditor where all the water goes."
So their packs full, the duo slid back into the tunnels of the
city and made their way back home.
Throwing their loot on the table in the small shack by the
gardens, they were amazed at the quantity.
Daren began the debriefing, "We have so much more than what
the monks will request. I have to thank you my friend, without you
it'd be a very different story. This is really good, because now we
have inventory to experiment with. Stealing wasn't going to be very
"Of course, I don't think our hearts could take the stress
anyway. We'd be dead by 40."
Murdock went back to his old life, a strange bedfellow now, and
thought constantly on the task of recreating the protective lanterns.
The days went by faster when one was daydreaming and chewing on the
fat of a life outside.
While he was on his 5 minute lunch break, it came to him. He
should have someone analyze the compound in the lanterns! So he asked
around for a few days, and people gave him some rather weak leads, or
ones that would cost him far too much.
Mellday came and he visited a few people who said they didn't do
that kind of thing. An upper class gentlemen stopped him, pulled him
"You looking for a chemist?"
"I know a lady... witch if you ask anyone, who specializes in
all things... chemical."
So the man laid out a set of instructions for him to follow. He
went quite many ways and was led on quite the goose chase until, just
when he had lost where he was, he was there. It was a beautiful shop,
the man said he'd know it when he saw it.
The place was an antiquities store. This was not a chemist's lab.
He was disheartened. Had he really come to the right place? Yes, he'd
come to the place the instructions told. Those were quite specific.
Had he come to the place of a chemist? He had a terrible feeling that
no, the gentleman was simply putting a scruffy ol' worker on. He was
probably laughing at his expense.
A young lady came 'round, "Looking for anything in
"Uh, I was told I could get something looked at."
The lady was taken aback, likely because of the wording, "I'm
sorry- plenty to look at, but I'm not in the business of looking at
"Sorry I must have the wrong place."
"Well, feel free to look around."
He felt bad about the awkward exchange, and bought a old tea
He went back to the shop and saw that Daren was making a ruckus.
Murdock called to him from behind a door, "You alright in
"Fine thanks! Can you take care of the customers? I'm a
little tied up with something!"
Murdock noticed a good sized queue forming in the shop and thought
quickly, "Just hot tea this evening folks, no sandwiches or
iced! The establishment apologizes for the inconvenience."
And he learnt all about the categorized system of boxes along the
wall and how to find any specific tea.
Darren poked his head out the door and noticed the infuser Murdock
brought, "Murdock, how... why? Perfect! When you're done out
here, come and help me with this!"
So Murdock finished with the last customer and left some
complimentary tea out at the counter, and went into the back room.
A large contraption was whirling and hissing, Daren biting his
"What is this?" Murdock inquired.
Daren smiled, "This, my friend, it a centrifugal separation
device. and you'd brought me the last thing I needed, " he
walked around the thing pointing out bits and bobs, "This is a
test to see if I can't separate out the known components of the
mixture. This bit subjects a few of the separators to intense heat
via steam, and that is producing exactly what we needed."
"What is it?"
"I'm not sure, but it's absolutely nothing we know about. Not
mushroom, nor root, or even tea. It's a metallic paste of mystery."
Murdock shook, "It's giving me chill, man."
So they spent the night poking it and comparing it to things in
textbooks. Daren finally referenced an old plumbing book. Their
substance was likely a compound used in small repairs. They filled
all the lanterns in the gardens with their newly derived mixture and
Weeks went by and no harm fell to them. Murdock discussed the
possibility of a partnership. His day job was absolutely horrid and
he knew he'd do the shop well. They decided to confront the monks,
make their protection for themselves here on out, and keep the extra
profit to support them both run the shop.
They descended into the under-gutters of the city and found the
"I no longer require your protection, so I'm afraid your
crazy tariff on my protection is void, " Daren exclaimed, "Ours
was a good deal until you decided to harass me time and time again."
Murdock joined in, "Why didn't anyone try to kill this thing
One of the monks took off his hood, revealing the glowing face of
a green vibranni, "You understand very little."
"Well enlighten us, oh holy streetlamp." Murdock
"Stop, all of you." The other monk began, "we're
sorry. We really should explain after all this time. It's true, we
got very... demanding. We've been trying to cure our brother."
Daren was confused, "What?"
"Our brother..." the first brother reluctantly
continued, "He's the one who's been so dangerous."
"I thought it was the face of a person!" Murdock
"Kind of you to use that word to describe us, persons.
"We were held hostage by a group of madmen in Argenstrath.
They made us emit light from our pores and more. They tortured and
violated our souls for months.
"It was only when they mutated Adric that we were able to
escape. His strength grew to unimaginable proportions. We don't think
even our captors knew to what extent that was going to occur.
"So we setup a small sanctuary where we could keep him safe
and the world safe from he, his bars were smells of poison. Something
ever he could understand.
"But you enticed us with profit. Profit we though could be
exploited to cure our little brother. Nowhere we turned could or
would anyone help us. Any time we thought we found a new avenue of
hope, we squeezed you a little to get more to pay our way with.
"We never thought it would end up like this."
Then, a hideous arm came slathering it's weight around the corner
of the tunnel. The darkness was gone, the tunnels looked plain as day
- a bright green.
"No Adric!" the hooded monk yelled as he was pushed to
the wall by the beast.
Murdock thought about what was going on and remembered that he
said the mushroom and metal mix was poisonous. He ran off toward the
gardens, leaving Daren with the glowing Vibranni.
"Thanks! Just leave me here to deal with the glow worm
Daren grabbed one of the brothers and led him toward the garden.
The other one was gasping for air, but his neck had been bent in a
way that wouldn't ever be fixed. Just as they passed through the
gateway to the gardens, a pale of the vile concoction drenched the
Murdock cried out, "Look, I'm so sorry, but his pain needs to
end. No one can continue on like this. I'm sorry Adric."
The monk fell to the ground in grief, wept and wailed of the
Time passed and the vibranni who was more of a brother than a monk
walked on toward the desert, to warn any of his people who would
listen to his story and think on what his life should be now.
Murdock did indeed stop working at the Mills and became
co-proprietor of the Black Leaf and Earl.
This all came about because a man was given a day off. Sometimes
we need an inch to move a mile. Sometimes, when it rains, it pours.
And sometimes, it pours tea.