We need to find you your own steed, Death said and dismounted. He patted Binky’s mane before busying himself with removing the saddle and headcollar.
Squeak, the small bone rat replied.
What point is there in keeping you independent when I have to carry you to all your duties nevertheless? Death retorted. He hung saddle and headcollar on their hooks on the wall and reached out to offer his hand to the Grim Squeaker.
The Death of Rats hopped onto it and waved his scythe at Death. Eek!
Even Death found a certain unease in graveyards. It was like a garden for those that refused to move on. Sometimes, he indeed would encounter a soul that had forgotten itself, clinging to the slab of stone that spelled a name and dates. Often, he would see the living, clinging onto the memories of those that had moved on; as if they could bring those back.
This place somehow was a stark contrast to Death’s very nature and purpose.
Still, there were those creatures that revelled in the decay and in this state between life and death. One of those creatures was just skulking between headstones, sniffing and growling.
It was almost as big as Binky, covered in black fur that stuck out in rough angles. When it looked up, Death noticed long white teeth, slobber dripping from them, and large yellow eyes gleaming in the sparse moonlight.
Squeak! the Death of Rats announced and jumped from Death’s shoulder onto the ground. He scurried to the black dog and Death watched with some amusement how they conversed in squeaks and growls.
„I was killed by a bone rat and a black dog!“ the seamstress gasped. „I wanted to see if the mousetrap had caught the rat that kept eating my bread and there was this huge black dog! I was so scared, I… I died of fear?“
Death nodded. This was the third person he had to pick up because they had walked in on the Grim Squeaker and his trusty steed. By this rate, Death would get more work done if he returned to carrying his rodent friend to his appointments.
„How embarrassing,“ she grunted and crossed her arms while fading.
And thus, the search for an appropriate steed began anew.
No, a noble dragon is far too big and would cause even more destruction and work for us. Death tapped a bony finger against his chin. A swamp dragon, maybe?
A week later, Death’s domain had become the home of a group of very helpful, and very dead swamp dragons. A new one just popped up in front of Albert. It yipped and noticing the cigarette that Albert had just rolled, it spit a flame towards it.
„You must be from the Sunshine Sanctuary for Sick Dragons,“ he said as he took a deep drag. For some reason, those dragons always were rather well-trained in lighting up cigarettes.
A soft poff announced the arrival of the Death of Rats on the kitchen counter. He looked at the ghostly swamp dragon sitting on the cooker and sighed.
Ik! he said and pointed his scythe at the dragon.
It cowered and even in death, exploded in a puff of smoke. It reappeared and looked around, yipping it’s puzzlement before sending another puff of fire towards Albert’s cigarette.
Squeak, the Death of Rats sighed once more.
„I could have told you that swamp dragons are a bad idea,“ Albert grunted as he tossed his burnt cigarette into an ashtray. „Not surprised they explode every time the soul of a rodent pops up from its dead body.“
So, which steed do you want to try, now?
They had gathered in Death’s study and were looking at a map of the Disc.
Squeak, the Death of Rats replied. He was standing on Überwald and pointed his scythe at the town of Jott-Wädeh.
The Wolpertinger, Death said. Why not?
It had seemed like a good fit at first. A hare was close enough to a rodent while still being large enough to carry a rat on her back. The pair of eagle wings enabled her to move fast and free. And while the two protruding canines and the pair of antlers provided a slightly threatening air, no human would drop dead from accidentally seeing her.
Hulda, as the Death of Rats called her, was happy enough to be given a purpose. When they were not out on the Disc to guide the deceased to the afterlife, Hulda and the Grim Squeaker cuddled up. It seemed that even a bone rat could appreciate the warmth and touch of soft fur.
Sadly, even her canines and antlers didn’t gain Hulda any respect with the freshly deceased rodents. As soon as the soul rose from the dead body and spotted Hulda, the rodent dissolved into giggles and laughter until it had dissolved completely. Often, the sniggering would still linger behind.
And thus, they had gathered in Death’s study once more. Death was sitting on his chair, fingertips tapping a bony rhythm against each other.
Squeak, the Death of Rats whispered and reached out to scratch a spot behind Hulda’s ears. She released a string of soft noises and closed her eyes, shifting closer to the rat.
If that’s what you’ve decided, Death said. It might be for the best. I doubt Albert’s fried carrots are a good diet for you.
Hulda sneezed and shook herself.
Well then, it was a pleasure having you here while it lasted.
He was back to simply appearing at the scene of death. Maybe, there would never be the steed befitting the Death of Rats.
He sat down next to the trap and poked the handle of his scythe against the cheese lure. It wobbled a bit, but didn’t move. The trap remained ready to spring.
The Death of Rats huffed and looked around. His appointment wasn’t due for another five minutes, he might as well walk around and have a look at the room.
The first impression the room gave was of utter mess and chaos. Old parchments with faded scribbles were scattered over the floor, broken glass tubes mingling with the parchment. The smell of old food was tangible beneath the odour of concoctions that made the Grim Squeaker’s whiskers bristle. Magic lay in the air.
It would be a good decision to return to the trap, he decided. One never knew what magic would unleash on an unsuspecting anthropomorphic personification.
„Oi! You! Bony rat, you don’t happen to have your eye balls lying around?“ a voice from the rafters croaked.
The Death of Rats stopped in his tracks and looked up. Above him a raven sat, ruffling his feathers and looking down with black, beady eyes. It cocked its head as it regarded the Death of Rats. „As you don’t seem to want them anymore. Might serve the good cause of feeding me.“
Snh Snh Snh, the Grim Squeaker giggled. Maybe what he needed wasn’t a mythological steed, but an ordinary creature that had come into contact with magic. Squeak?
„As long as you pay in eye balls,“ the raven agreed.