Tea And Necromancy

I'm sure you're all wondering why I've summoned you here.

Please, don't feel it necessary to stop what you're doing. There's hot tea, and still plenty of cakes. Help yourselves, or my manservant will see to you.

First of all, I must apologize for the conditions. When I acquired this mansion, I wasn't really planning on hosting any large events. You'll have to forgive the seating, and I know more than a few of you have been eyeing the cobwebbed chandelier dangling from on high.

Please know that I'm more than capable of sensing any dangers within these walls, and our great crystal Sword of Damocles will indeed stay put this eve.

No, I'm sure you're all well aware that any strange occurrences you've experienced these past few nights have been the doing of those around you. Come now, don't look so shocked! We're among our own kind, so there is no need for theatrics.

Mr. White Tongue. You know full well that the apparition which accosted you in the hallway was sent after you by none other than the Gilded Rajah. Who else but he would think to employ such a needlessly complicated plot? I mean, really… a six-armed spirit, showing its victims visions of their own death… I hate to assume, but there can be little doubt that is your handiwork.

Rajah, please, save your protests for the end of my speech.

Countess Fish, Countess Bird, you still look skeptical. I sense you still believe I am to blame for the suffering you experienced while staying under my roof. Trust me, I would not visit such horrors on my guests! Do you recall when Mrs. Root seized you in that congratulatory embrace during our Toad-Swallowing contest yesterday morning?

You do! Ah, I can see you've already guessed! Correct, Mrs. Root was simply getting a hold of some of your hair. One can hardly be blamed as your platinum blonde locks are indeed much to be desired… however, her intentions were a bit more sinister than one would hope.

That's right. The zombified Grave Digger who sought to tarnish your good moral standing in the drawing room was indeed conjured by our dear friend Mrs. Root.

Please, Countesses, put away your daggers. This is my home, and I expect everyone to respect that.

Well… I would appreciate it if you'd all at least pretend to respect my rules while in my presence. It's clear to me that you'll do positively anything once you're out of my sight!

Mrs. Root, please sit back down. That door leads to the cloak room, anyway.

Bellow all you want, but if we turn out your purse right now I'm sure we'll find the hairs and a bit of grave dirt.

As you may have guessed, it is this petty bickering and lack of self-control that has brought us all together tonight. Frankly, I feel as if I am the last sane person left amongst us. They say that magic-use leads to magic-abuse, but that's a poor excuse for such behavior!

Yes, Clive McCoven, I see you waving your hand about, but I am not taking questions or commentary at this time.

Very well, yes, we all know about the necrotic bone-spiders that spilled from your closet last night. Right. They almost did you in, yes, we've heard. Unfortunately, I suspect you put them there yourself because no one had yet made an attempt on your life and you felt left out.

Will that be all, or do you have more to add? Alright, moving on then.

To cut right to the point, I want us all to make an agreement tonight. An oath. I will have no more of this in-fighting, and no longer will I sit quietly by while imagined slights and careless tongues cause no end of revenge schemes and reprisals.

Idhidxle, I'm sorry for your loss. However, if you're going to flaunt your hand-made family of golems in front of everyone, it's going to ruffle some feathers. Yellow Maude was in no way justified in what she did to them, but what you perpetrated in response was uncalled for. As we all know, she then came back at you full-force… or as much as she could with so few limbs… and then you had to get back at her… and…

What I'm saying is that this is a cycle we need to break, and we need to do it tonight.

My manservant now stands in your midst holding a covered silver tray. Settle down, I assure you there is no reason to fear him. The tray and its lid have been enchanted by myself in order to prevent tampering. None may open it, save for my manservant himself.

Upon that tray, I have placed an ink well, a quill, and a contract. The language is simple and direct. It says you all agree to forgive all trespass and cease all feuds in relation to one another. I have taken every precaution to make sure there are no loopholes. There is no wiggle room.

Once you have signed that contact, you will be magically bound to observe the letter of the law, as it were. Should any of you attempt to cause harm against another… even indirectly… you will find yourself incapable of the act. Your voice will halt… your hands will not obey… I have thought of everything.

I implore you all to search your wise, ancient hearts.

Sign this document.

Please indicate you are willing to sign by raising your hand. My manservant will bring the tray to each of you so that you can make your mark.

You may raise your hands now.

Mr. White Tongue? Think of how many sons you've lost in this bitter war. Is it one thousand? Two? Talon Tail, please, you of all people will sign - I'm sure of it! I remember it was you who brokered peace between the Shrewvyles. Cerberon Castlemoore, you come from noble blood. You know when Peace should prevail over War, am I wrong? Teasel Tumblebottom? Keen-Eye? He Who Sleeps? Marjorie Lapel?

Will none of you sign? Truly?

Countesses Bird and Fish, please! You've done as much harm to Mrs. Root as she's done to you… surely there MUST be someone here who has sense enough to end this utter madness!


V-very well… Manservant, you may go now. Dispose of the tray's contents appropriately. Yes, this is my wish. Thank you.

I can't say I'm surprised at all of you, but I'm surprised it WAS all of you. Not a single mind or heart is open to my pleas? Not a single soul is swayed by the idea of mercy or forgiveness?

So be it.

I hope you have all enjoyed your tea. That will be your undoing. I know it is the height of hypocrisy, but the burden is mine to bear.

I have killed you all.

Mrs. Root, scream all you like. By all means, clutch that frog throat of yours and squeeze every bit of drama out of the revelation, but realize all around you are in the same state and will offer you no compassion.

You are correct, Castlemoore. If I had cursed the cups or their contents, you would indeed have sensed it. No, that wouldn't have gotten past your notice, much less would it have passed your lips.

There is no supernatural element to this plot. I simply infused your drink with juice of the Widowberry. Your expressions tell me you're all familiar with it. That, or you're looking shocked because your voices suddenly fell silent.

My, it is quiet in here, isn't it? I can actually hear myself thinking without all the harrumphs and hushed gossip.

As you know, the only antidote for Widowberry poisoning is the scent of the Groom Leaf. I took care to mix that very herb into the ink. Specifically, the ink you would have used to sign my agreement. One whiff upon supplying your signature would have saved you from pain of death.

Unfortunately, it has now been disposed of as per my order.


I can see you're all intent on making one final mess for me to clean up.

This story was originally posted with an accompanying poem about two of the characters mentioned:

Countess Bird and Countess Fish
They married noble men

Had their want and had their wish
Then wished for it again

Countess Fish and Countess Bird
Their grooms had no pleasure

No love in their bosoms stirred
Save for that of treasure

"Sister," wept the Countess Fish,
"I've had my fill of sea!"

"Sister," wept the Countess Bird,
"That is quite plain to see!"

"Sister," wept the Countess Bird,
"I'm tired of the sky!"

"Sister," wept the Countess Fish,
"If only they would die!"

Countess Fish and Countess Bird
Their birthday had come 'round

All within the kingdom heard
And brought them gifts abound

Countess Bird and Countess Fish
They cooked a tasty thing

Joyously they served a dish
Of blackened fin and wing


  • This story in part inspired Slimebeast to come up with the therm "Keyhole Fiction" to describe works where the reader is learning about another "world" through scant information on-the-fly, like watching a scene through a keyhole.
  • This story was written as an exercise in concealing exposition dumping.
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