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Puzzle Box: A Grave Matter

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It had been quite an adventure and had ended with Penny Coin (also known as the Puzzle Pixie) finding a peice for her puzzle box. This peice being an enchanted bone. When inserted into the mysterious box of infinite puzzles...


Well, lots of strange stuff with dimensions and magic and this and that happened. In a blaze of light. 


And then...


Well, Facsimile woke up in a lovely silk bed with a start. His dreams had been most peculiar and best left for the man himself to describe. But peculiar they had been. 


As lovely as the silk bed was, the most peculiar thing is that he woke up in a graveyard. The air was cool and dry, and the smell of rain and earth lingered faintly. Up above was a moon. A very big moon, twice the size of anything he had ever seen. 


To his left, he heard loud snoring. Penny Coin was asleep, snoring loudly, clutching her pillow and mumbling about the Elf King and whistling pipes. 

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It had been his realization that he was indeed having the weird dream he always had when he was troubled by something.


Upon awaking he figured out what exactly it was that was disturbing him.


Hopping out of the bed with a start his first instinct was to look around for any signs of danger or restraints and to test that his powers still functioned by attempting to take on the properties of a nearby gravestone.

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Something in the back of his head told him that something was a little off. Like the substances here had a slightly different flavour to his brain than normal. 


But nagging oddness aside, his powers seeme to work quite well enough. The gravestone was indeed stone, and nothing more or less. His flesh and bones duly turned to stone - not, it should be clarified, in the manner of petrification, but as per his normal powers. Fluid, functional stone. 


A few dead leaves fell from the trees in the graveyard, and a light breeze wafted. 


"Hmmm...yeah...rrrrmmm....you can stuff your pipes up your....whaa!" woke Pixie from her slumber, starting straight up. 


"What happened? Where are we?" she complained, patting herself down. 


"Where's the puzzle box???"

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"Not sure...something is off with this place...." he said voice grinding and rumbling.


"I've been stone dozens of times its never...tasted like this....last thing i remember is the puzzle box errupting with light and then...well waking up here." He explained as he examined himself.

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"That's the last thing I remember too" said Pixie, holding her chin and contemplating the most bamboozling of predicaments they were in. "This place is creepy, isn't it? Like, it's not really earth. Oh dear, I hope we aren't in the Puzzle Box..." she said, excited and anxious at the same time. 


"It was the bone, right? The enchanted bone from that mean witch? That was the key. And now we are in a graveyard. That can't be coincidence..."


As if on cue, there was a movement of earth between them. Something rumbling in the greavedirt. Another...then another....


Something was rising from the grave's!

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"though we were in a graveyard in the real world i wonder if that had anything...." his voice trailed off as his head snapped with a speed not ment for stone towards the movement in the corners of his eyes.


"lookout! he boomed instinctively as he turned to face the emerging figures, heavy stone boots booming as they planted firmly into the not-quite-soil of the graveyard that wasn't


"Look uglies, this is the third time i've had to deal with the uppitiy dead, second today, do us all a favor and just go back to your dirt naps before i plant ya like peach pits!"

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The uglies, as he put it, paid little or no heed. 


Four of them started crawling out of the soft earth. Rotting corpses, full of maggots and disease. Hardly study, but ghastly to the nose and too the eye. 


"Pew! These guys stink!" said Pixie, helpfully, before once again turning invisible. "You smash em! Just make sure they don't explode on me!" she commanded. 


The four corpses were halfway out of the earth now, pawing and burrowing. At least one of them snapped a fingerbone as they hauled their rotting flesh out towards the moonlight...

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Without so much as another word facsimile sprung forth from his stance,  though his stone legs were significantly less springy than his usual steel they were extremely solid and more than capable of absorbing the shock of slamming against the ground and carry him forth like an avalanche!


Unsure of how the zombies might react to being struck and in a long unused form he opted for a palm heel strike to the center of one of the rotting revellers ribcage, these beings were long dead and though they were once human they required no such delicacy on his part so the punishing blow is delivered with the intent to shatter bones like glass and force the creature back if not destroy it, and using the strong transition of his shoulders to follow through into a round house kick to batter the second in the neck.

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The palm went straight through the rib cage, to the sound of exploding and cracking bones. The corpse let out a hiss of escaping gas, which smelt somewhat of methane. It then sank like a deflated balloon, crumbling around Facsimile. 


"Yay!" yelled the invisible Pixie. 


The kick took the skull of the second, and the might force of Fascimile sent the head sailing into the sky, so fast one might imagine it hit the giant moon (possibly, given the strange setting, it did!)


The other two corpses, quite mindless, continued marching towards Fascimile, rotting arms out-stretched!

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These over ripe pumpkins were much less threatening that the tragically irradiated crew of that submarine they'd unearthed but by the gods they stank to high heaven, so much so that even his stone nose burned and his eyes watered some manner of quicklime, he found himself breifly wondering if he were to vomit if it would be some kind of stone slush or cement before launching himself into the air once more and with all the grace of a stone crane landed before the next zombie in line for his attention.


Stooping beneath its arms to grasp it by the ankle he followed through, swinging it over his head and using it as a putrid hammer to slam its fellow  against the ground.


He knew better than to let his guard down however, there were far more than four graves here and his stamina was far from limitless. so with a slight paranoia he quickly hops around to take a glancing check that no others had risen from their rest.

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As expected, the two colliding corpses exploded in a fetid shower of bones, rotting flesh, and most unpleasant noxious gas. 


"Hey, that guys...finger....nearly hit me!" complained Pixie. "At least....I think its a finger. Its all shrivelled up and...no...I don't think I want to take too close a look...." she whispered, horrified. 


There seemed to be no more grumbling from the ground, but a voice did call out. It has a low, rumbling quality, and had a thick Jamaican accent. 


"So, de Livin' be here. Bin some long year since I seen Livin'..."


Behind one of the taller gravestones, some distance away, the speaker appeared, bathed in moondlight. He was not exactly filthy, but he was ragged...long dreadlocks, torn clothes, and barefoot. In his hand he had a large machete that looked both rusty and robust. 


"Dey call me Gravedigger" he said, by way of introduction. "What 'em call you?"



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"Folks call me Facsimile, Facs for short." he answered with a polite weariness "forgive my stony expression but there be zombies and such round these parts, you know?" he said humorously as he gestured to his granite body "where is these parts by the way and im sorry iffin thats your bed, i just kinda woke up in it." gesturing towards the out of place piece of furniture.


"its a right pleasure to make yer quintessence all the same."

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It was not entirely clear if Gravedigger understood the more complex vocabulary spoited by Facsimile. He gave a sniff. 


"Zombies, ya. Corpses. The undead, brought back to dis world. Be foul things..." he mumbled, swinging his machete. "And plenty of dem. I...I cannot be remembering how long I have been..."


He shook his head, irritated with himself. 


"Not my bed. I ain't be havin' time for sleepin', not round 'ere. I canna say where dat bed come from, but it be mighty strange..." he considered, stroking his beard. 


"Maybe it be a pleasure to meet ya, maybe it not be. But even if ya made of stone, ya don't seem to be one of de undead. That mean's I ain't about to slice ya up!" he laughed. It was not exactly a cruel laugh, but neither was it without a hard edge. 


"I be after vengeance, ya see. I got a man to kill. A man dat be summonin' the dead...."

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"Ah see, sounds like you have it rough, friend." Sincerety creeping into his voice.


"Iffin ya wanna catch a few hours of sleep i'd be happy to keep watch fer ya. I might have buisness with ya man if he's what brought me here."  He offered gesturing to the bed as his stone body returned to flesh

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"I'll sleep when i be dead" muttered the Gravedigger. "But not then either, maybe" he added, as the horror of the situation seeped in. "I be making my work the killin' of the dead. Them not be natural" he explained, angrily. 


"As for ya business with the witch-man, ya best be tellin' me all" he added, insistent now. "I bin huntin' 'im for...for long time. And I ain't bin getting any more dan close. If ya knows him, then get them tongue waggin' and tell me whats ya know!" he demanded. 

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"now now, no need to be gettin upset, i don't know him personally like, but waking up in a fancy bed in a graveyard and bein' surrounded by zombies makes me think that a witchman is behind it all yeah?" he offered holding his hands up in none aggression.


"I got talents, not so keenly focused as ya own, but i can make short work of these over ripe pumpkin punks." he said gesturing to the various remains that he'd littered the surroundings with "I say we go find him and after i squeezed him for answers he can face justice for what he has done is all."

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"Squeeze 'im? Ya, I'll squeeze 'im...till his heart be still in me hands..." clarified the Gravedigger grimly, clenching a fist to make it quite clear that murder was on his mind. 


A thought struck him out of his morbid determinations. "Say, do you speak Latin?" he asked. 


"I do!" piped up Pixie, appearing in a flash of nothing right by them. "I speak everything!"


The Gravedigger, despite his iron will, could not surpress a flicker of surprise. His machete came up as a reflex, but he did not swing. 


"Spirit! What are you?" he demanded. 


"Oh I'm not a spirit. Im Penny. Penny Coin. Yeah, my parents had a sense of humour" she complained. "They also call me the Puzzle Pixie!"


"How come you be here?" he asked Pixie, before considering that this question might also be addressed to Facsimile. "How come both of you be here?"

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Alex sighed a little and rolled his shoulders "I dunno, where is here? i might have not moved at all, or i could be on another planet!" he explained a little bit frustrated, "I come from freedom city, New jersey." he explained "I was in a graveyard when there was a flash of light and then i woke up here....pixie was with me, we'd just finished laying the smackdown on some wannabe witch queen." he explained.


"I have no clue what happened, maybe some kinda weird symapthetic magic boogaloo or a effect of the weird staff she had. flung us here...or now...or both."

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"Hmmm" whispered the Gravedigger, stroking his stubble. "Dat be making no sense. Which is why I believe ya! A liar be making some story dat making sense!" he chuckled. "And anyways, this place be making no sense at all. I be chasing the witchman all year, then we ended up...here. An' I dont know how long we be here. An' I don't know where here be..."


"But You be lucky to have bed of silk!" he laughed now, and even if it was a hearty jocular laugh, there was a trace of envy in it. 


"If you speak Latin, I 'ave a job for ya!" he smiled at Pixie, with a few missing teeth and at least one tooth of gold. Well, if he was called the Gravedigger maybe he could get gold from less than admirable sources...


And so...


"'Ere! See it with ya eyes!"


The Gravedigger had taken them a short distance through trees and graves, to a hanging basket wover from wood. Inside, a rotting decapitated head. 


The skull started moaning in Latin, almost screaming. 


"Oh dear!" said Pixie. "I think....I think the Gravedigger has been...torturing him!" she gulped to Fascimile. 


"Im? Im?" retorted the Gravedigger, who heard that plenty well. "It not an IM! It an IT! And it know about the witchman!"

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"There's enough of him to talk and feel pain, otherwise you'd get nothing outta it right?" he retorted, interposing himself between the gravedigger and pixie "I only delt with about 20 zombies all in all during my time but ain't none of them so much as flinched when i clobbered em let alone started screaming in apparently fluent latin!"


In truth Facsimile couldn't help but feel a welling of sympathy for any being who could feel and was currently feeling pain, no matter how alien or demonic or synthetic it might've been, it had made his hunting keen uncles unfond of him for his refusal to partake in their rituals but he had held fast, this head was rather less....majestic than a deer but it evidently knew what agony was.


"what makes you think he knows anythin about your witchman if you can't understand him...and why'd you torture him if you wouldn't understand anything he told you?"

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"It a skull!" replied the Gravedigger as a shocked Pixie turned away. "It not alive, not no more. I cant understand Latin, never speakin' it. And out of all de dead I killed 'ere, dis be de only one ever spoke anythin'!" he protested, giving the skull a poke with his machete through the wood. 


The skull screamed again, and the Gravedigger chuckled. 


"It know somethin' I can feel it! And it will tell! Ask it where de Witch-man is!" he demanded of Pixie. "Or it be sufferin' me vengance!" he threatened. 


Pixie, rather ashen faced, looked at Faximile for direction...

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Alex took a deep breath as his tried to focus his mind and figure out what he needed to do here "Ok...give us a moment please, stop swinging that thing around and we'll do what we can but we need a moment." it was of course none negotiable to he turned and gently putting a hand on pixies shoulder he supported her as he lead her away, not so far as he couldn't keep his eye on the clearly unhinged gravedigger but far enough aay that pixie could have a moment to calm down.


"What a situation we've gotten ourselves stuck in eh?" he said with a soft smile "Scary stuff i know, my fist time out my legs were twanging like a mouth harp...though my steel form wasn't as solid as it is now, heh." doing his best to give her things to ground herself in, the touch of his hand on her shoulder, the sound of his voice, the hopefully still minty fresh smell of his breath and his face, hopefully safe and familiar enough to provide some comfort to the distressed penny.


"I will not let Gravedigger hurt you, I promise, ok? no matter what." he said firmly, making sure to keep eye contact and speak plainly and clearly.


He could save the questions about the skull and what it might be yelling about for after she'd been calmed down, Normally he was a fan of self determination and this was as pixie had said not long ago "her puzzle box" but right now it looked like she wanted to be secure in someone else's plan.

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The Gravedigger slowly pulled out his rusted machete, his white eyes fixed on Fascimile whilst he did so. "Ah can give you moment. Ah can give you plenty of time. But Ah cannot wait forever" he said, slowly and clearly. 


Pixie shuddered, and whispered to him, this time in Romanian, which she knew he spoke. And Pixie spoke everything. 


"He scares me. That grin. Those eyes. Like nothing will stop him. His mind is on one thing...Vengeance!" she said, worried. "Although I suppose its not our blood he wants to spill...."


She spoke some more to the skull in Latin, and raised her eyes in alarm, before turning to Fascimile once more. 


"...its...ah...complicated. This skull is Roman. I mean, he is from Roman times. A sorcerer or something like that. He said he taught the witch-man...well, I presume it is the witch-man. He said he taught the ways of necromancy to some musician. A violinist. And now the violinist is raising the dead...." she shuddered. 


"Except I don't know what to believe. This skull...it belonged to a black hearted man. A sorcerer. And it seems his student got the better of him. And...I don't know. Who is lying? What do we do?" she said, wringing her hands. 


"Oh darn it. The puzzle box is meant to be awesome! Not this!"


"What she sayin? What did it say?" demanded the Gravedigger of Fascimile, pointing his Machete at Pixie (albeit more as a tool to point with than a weapon) and the Skull respectively (admittedly, when used to point at the skull, it was in a threatening way...)

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"Well im gonna do what i always do...stay calm, pick my moments and make some really tough decisions before i can over think it or regret it." he said with a soft wink to her as he turned to face gravedigger.


"Your hunch was right, this is whats left of your witchman's teacher, every bit as eager to catch up with our violinist friend as you are perhaps willing to lead us there if we're willing to make a few concessions." he said loudly, unsure if the skull could lead them anywhere but obsession was as much a powerful method of manipulation as a unstoppable drive.


"for starters he'd like to be carried by someone other than yer goodself, im sure you understand."

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"I knew it! I'm gonna kill im!" shouted the Gravedigger. 


He raised his machete before the ramifications of the situation started seeping into his brain. The fact that he had changed to calling the skull "Him" rather that "It" was noteworthy. 


"If im know where witch-man is, then im better say so...but I be carryin' im...." he insisited, picking up the basket with his left hand. 


"Now...you get im to say where we goin'...."


Pixie gulped and looked at Fascimile, again speaking in Romanian. "What do you think? I mean...its our best bet? Right? This Witch-man, or violinist, or whatever, sounds like he is behind all of this...."

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