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Of Celebrations...

Of Celebrations…

Doug felt like he had an odd sort of bubble around him, as the crowd kept a good few feet behind him on their journey back up to the Tea Party. Kei was the only one who was immune, for obvious reasons, and she walked besides him. Though he couldn’t help noticing the dirty looks she was getting, Kei seemed entirely unbothered.

“I gotta say,” she smirked, speaking in a low hush so no one would overhear them, “At first I was a little worried, but I’m impressed. You pulled it off in the end.”

Frankly, he was kind of still in a daze about the whole thing. It didn’t really feel like that guy on the stage had even been him. Like something else entirely had possessed his mouth and limbs just at that right moment. He could barely even remember what had happened. And yet, he did just enough that there wasn’t a shadow of a doubt. He had done that.

“Yeah, I… I guess I did,” he couldn’t help laughing a little at the absurdity of the whole thing.

“Hey, don’t sound so surprised,” she punched him lightly on the arm. “I told you it’d be fine. Though the ‘your mom’ joke might have been slightly out of character.”

“Aww, but that was the best part. It’s been fifty years, maybe Bacchae’s gotten some new material?”

She shook her head, chuckling to herself. “I guess it’s not entirely out of the realm of possibility.”

They fell silent for a moment, listening to the roar of the growing crowd behind them. Back at the Soul Market, Doug had discovered upon vacating the tent that there had been a whole extra sea of people waiting outside. And even now as they kept walking the crowd behind them seemed to only be growing larger.

If Doug thought people were staring before, it was nothing compared to now. Mouths were dropping open as he passed. He attempted a smirk of some sort and waved a few times at the passersby, though he was sort of dying inside from all of the attention. Just a little. Doug hadn’t ever exactly been known as someone worthy of a lot of notice, even after his appearance had made him somewhat of an abnormality. He had to admit that he wasn’t a huge fan.

“So, what happens now?” he asked Kei, trying to distract himself from the countless eyes pointing in his direction.

“Once we reach the plaza, Malachi will inevitably be waiting for us with some of his Tea Party buddies.”

“Wait, that’s bad, isn’t it?”

“I mean, what’s he gonna do? You’re Bacchae, remember? If he tries to resist handing the city back over he’ll have a fucking riot on his hands. Nah, he’ll play nice for now and try to negotiate behind closed doors later.”

“You make it sound like there’s no system of, like, government in place or whatever,” Doug once more found himself very confused.

Kei shrugged. “Uh, yeah, there’s not. It’s not like Bacchae ever expected to vacate the throne. I don’t know what he was, but mortal he certainly was not. When he vanished, Malachi was the only member of the Tea Party to step up to the plate, so we kind of got stuck with him. I’m sure you can imagine how much daemons love to work together. No one could ever gain enough sheer momentum to depose him, and he’s way too sharp to ever get tricked out of the job. Well, until now, anyway.”

“I know I keep saying it, but this place is fucking weird.”

“Only by your standards,” she countered. “But don’t worry about Malachi. You just focus on being Bacchae and I’ll handle him.”

“You’re starting to sound like my conniving royal vizier. You’re not gonna like, betray me to seize the throne for yourself or anything, are you?”

Kei rolled her eyes. “You’re real funny, you know that?”

“Funny lookin’, smellin’, or both?”

“Definitely both.”

A minute later, the clock tower came into view despite the road’s sharp incline, and Doug took a deep breath, trying to prepare himself for another round of being Bacchae. Despite his earlier success, this time he’d be up close and personal with the whole city and a man who not only knew Bacchae personally, but most likely wanted him to stay gone.

“Well, there it is,” he muttered, his nerves kicking right back up again.

“Oh,” Kei said. “I almost forgot, here, take this.” She pressed a small bag into his hand.

“What is it?”

“Money,” she said simply. “Anyone would expect you to have some. They’re called bones.”

“They feel like… rocks?” he jostled the bag around in his pocket.

“More like… crystals. But I wouldn’t think too hard about it. You… probably don’t want to know where they come from.”

He raised an eyebrow. “That’s ominous.”

“I can tell you about it if you want, but not now. We’re here.”

The question didn’t stick in Doug’s brain for very long, as just then they finally crested the hill, only to find that, as expected, Malachi was waiting for them.

He was taller than Doug. Dog wasn’t used to being shorter than people much anymore, so that made Malachi… very tall. His salt and pepper hair was slicked back with a reasonably amount of gel, and his facial hair was well-groomed and neatly trimmed, forming a strict line along his jaw. This was a man, er… daemon, who had his shit together. Against an alt-girl wannabe and a future dishwasher, he could probably crush them both with a thought.

But Doug gulped, reminding himself that he wasn’t a future dishwasher, he was an immortal being of pure chaos. At least he was trying to be. He straightened his shoulders in an attempt to make himself taller. It felt weird; he was so used to slouching. But he somehow had to stand equal with this adult.

“Malachi! How’ve you been, ya little shit? Busy ruining my city behind my back, I see!”

The daemon grimaced out a dangerous sort of smile as Doug approached him and the two rather rat-faced men on either side of him. Every fiber of Doug’s being was screaming at him to get the fuck away, but he forced his feet forward, one painful step at a time.

“I was merely preserving Discord’s future in the best way I know how.” Malachi didn’t break eye contact with Doug even as he came close enough for a firm handshake. “Daemons are fickle, my lord.”

Doug winced as Malachi gripped his hand a little too tightly.

“But of course, you already knew that,” Malachi spoke low enough that only Doug could hear him, and at the words, his entire body froze. Why had he said that? Did he… did he know that Doug was a liar? Or was it just unfortunately ominous banter? He stared into the daemon’s eyes, trying to ascertain his intentions, but found only a deathly cold calm there.

“R-right, of course,” Doug finally stuttered out.

Malachi reached behind his back with his free left hand, and Doug tensed, but he only pulled out an odd-looking metal pole with a ball-like shape on the top. “Your staff, my lord,” he said, as Doug hesitated.

“I’m disappointed you didn’t any tricks prepared for me,” Doug attempted to explain his pause as he snatched it from him. “Are you losing your touch, Malachi?”

He didn’t wait for a response, just turned back to the crowd that were all waiting with baited breath behind them. Whatever. Malachi didn’t matter anymore. Kei would handle him. At least he hoped. Right now there was an enormous amount of people waiting for their goddamn king. So he hoisted the staff into the air and tried to scream loud enough to be heard. “Alright, ya goons, let’s get this party fucking started!”

The change in atmosphere was palpable, and the party started immediately. Someone must have brought a speaker of some kind because there was music within about thirty seconds. Even if there hadn’t been, the sheer hype and number of people was so high that there was no way the party could have ever died.

Malachi seemingly vanished into thin air as Doug turned back to look for him. Maybe he was allergic to fun or something.

He had bigger problems to deal with, however, as he was quickly swarmed by the crowd. There were so many people that no one could actually try to talk to him, but there were so many hands trying to touch him, grab him, that he briefly worried he might be eaten alive.

Doug looked around for Kei, or anyone that might help him, but when he caught sight of her she was busy pressing bags of money into several different peoples’ hands and generally seemed to be coordinating shit. Doug was on his own.

With an odd sense of foreboding, he recalled that he’d never been to a party like this sober. Maybe that’s why this one seemed so unnaturally overwhelming. There was so much noise, so many bodies, and he was right in the middle of it with a pair of fucking goat horns wired to his head.

After a few minutes, he got the distraction he needed. A trolley crested the hill and the whole party cheered as they saw it was stuffed to the gils with booze. Keggers were thrown wildly into the crowd, and someone immediately started mixing drinks out of the back.

A few minutes after that, a band finished setting up in front of the gallows and the square got even louder. Though Doug had to admit that the violin player was fucking shredding it. Looked like Kei’s dosh had paid off. Anything to celebrate the one true lord of Discord’s return, he supposed.

Doug used the opportunity to sneak off to the edge of the Tea Party, just trying to get his head back on straight. And adjust the horns a little, cuz he was getting paranoid that they might fall off. He didn’t get much time to breathe, however.

“Uh, Bacchae… what are you doing?”

He jumped, only to sigh as Kei sidled up beside him. “Just getting a breather,” he admitted.

“Yeah, well, any minute now someone’s gonna notice.” Kei grabbed him by the shoulder and pulled him back into a deserted alley. “You’ve gotta be the center of the party, whether you like it or not.”

“I’m gonna be honest with you, I don’t know how long I’m gonna last out there. I think someone bit me at one point.”

“You’ve just gotta calm down and show them who you are. Have a drink, have ten! There’s plenty of it going around. Come to think of it, I’m pretty sure I saw someone passing out some chewies over yonder.”

Doug’s heart sank, though of course he didn’t know what he’d been expecting. It was a rager, after all. “There’s drugs?” he asked, more hesitant than maybe he meant for it to come out.

But much to his surprise, Kei shook her head. “Besides the pot, not really. Why deal with all the side effects when you can just get a wizard to get you high? There’s a couple of those running around too if you’re interested. Best fucking high you’ll ever get.”

“No thanks,” he frowned. “But, wait. You’re telling me that there’s wizards that get you high as the goddamn moon, but there’s still pot?”

“Everyone does pot, Doug.”

“You know what, can’t argue with that.”

“Anyway, get yourself loosened up, for god’s sake, and then let’s open up the clock tower.”

“The clock tower?” Doug tilted his head in confusion. “Won’t it be like… dusty?”

“You really think anyone here is going to care? Besides, it’ll give you something to do besides being passed around all night.”

He sighed. Tonight, there were going to be mistakes made. This whole endeavor had been a mistake. Specifically, however, he knew for a fact that drunk Doug was a fucking whore who could not be trusted. And yet, as much as he hated falling back into old habits, it might have been the one thing that would let him survive the night. At the very least, he was comforted by the fact that he couldn’t plunge all the way back into the deep end if there were no hardcore weights to get him down there.

Booze and pot should be fine. He’d never really had any problems with them like he had with the cocaine. His personality wasn’t addictive by nature, it was just depressive. Which meant that he was going to feel like a human turd tomorrow when he came down, but that was a problem for future Doug, not him. Fuck that guy, anyway.

So he allowed Kei to drag him back to the party. Shaking himself, he made an attempt at a swagger and made his way up to the bar trolley, procuring a shot of the finest rum Discord had to offer, or so said the bartender. He was more of a “whatever kind of shitty beer the underage host had managed to procure on that particular night,” kind of guy, but there was a first time for everything, he supposed.

He’d heard rum was the sweeter of the hard liquors, but mostly it just tasted like cleaning solution with a teaspoon of sugar sprinkled in. Doug almost gagged trying to hide his discomfort. However, he knew that he did have to hide it. The bartender hadn’t even asked him what he’d wanted before she’d handed it to him, so presumably this was a regular beverage for Bacchae. And you know, if getting utterly plastered was the goal, then he could see why.

Already the noise was becoming just slightly muffled, slightly more bearable.

He had one more shot for good measure, and hopped up on the stage in front of the gallows as soon as the band was done with their set. “Give ‘em a hand, folks,” he said, grabbing the mic from the singer. Oh yeah, he was starting to feel muuuuuch better. “Wait, uhh, what were you guys called, again?”

“Doesn’t Matter,” shouted the drummer.

“Hold on, are you saying that it doesn’t matter? Or is that the name of the—you know what, if it wasn’t, now it is. Doesn’t Matter, everyone!”

He was already getting numb to the noise of the crowd. Or maybe that was the rum.

“Anyway, who wants to turn this thing into a house-warming party, huh?”

The answer, clearly, was everyone.

“Then let’s go pop this sucker open like a fucking sardine can!”

Doug didn’t really know what he expected to find inside the clock tower. He’d only gotten the briefest of glimpses earlier that day. Again, he wondered who would ever want to live in one. He thought that it must be really obnoxiously loud.

Later, he would find out that for whatever reason, be it magic or just pure nonsense, that wasn’t the case. But at that moment, he was too concerned with keeping his shit together to give it too much thought.

It was dark on the other side of the towering doors, and being the first one through, it was Doug that got a face full of dust. Wait. Where were the lights? If he was Bacchae, he should know where they were. Shit. Did the clock tower even have any? Was it a fucking candles and lanterns sort of deal?

He didn’t know why he imagined it was a good idea, maybe he thought he’d make a joke out of it. Maybe it just seemed like something Bacchae would do. Doug clapped his hands together, and of course the whole room immediately lit up. Figures.

Inside, the ground floor seemed to be one big room, which made it a bit oddly shaped, most likely due to it being the inside of a fucking clock tower. It was covered in a uniform layer of dust, though someone had been thoughtful enough to lay sheets over the furniture. It was just a feeling, but Doug was pretty sure it hadn’t been Bacchae.

As the wildly inebriated crowd stumbled their way over the threshold, Doug realized that he ought to start pulling the sheets off; this was supposed to be his house, after all. So he made his way to the nearest white lump and whoa he was not used to hard liquor. He suddenly felt… a little dizzy.

He felt kind of weird about just waltzing in and making himself comfortable in some stranger’s house. But he guessed he was doing this. Throwing the sheets haphazardly in a corner, Doug revealed several comfortable-looking chairs and settees. Yet everyone really seemed to be waiting for him to get to the back of the room, where the final sheet was resting on something a couple of steps up from the rest of the room. So he fumbled his way up the steps, and after pausing for dramatic effect, listening to the beautiful hush of the crowd, yanked it off.

Of course, it was a throne. What else could it be? Surprisingly, it wasn’t as ornate as Doug was expecting. It most resembled a lounge chair, but just… really big, and done up in that annoying sort of velvet that sent shivers up the spine if you rubbed it the wrong way. As expected, it was green. What was with the fucker and green?

Feeling really dizzy now, Doug flopped gratefully into the chair, only to get met with wild applause. He pumped his fist in the air and annoyingly, another drink suddenly materialized in it. Great, now the universe itself was telling him to get shitfaced.

So, he did. And in the end, Kei had been right. He really did start to enjoy the party a little more when he wasn’t constantly anxious at every moment, when he just let the place devolve into a haze of lights and colors. And just what was wrong with that? There was good food here, alcohol, lots of very pretty ladies, daemon or otherwise. This place really wasn’t so bad, after all.

His improved mood didn’t last long, however. At some point and however many drinks in, Doug thought he spotted Kei over by a punch bowl that someone had dragged out from somewhere, and he stumbled through the crowd towards her.

“Heeey, Kei. Heeeeeeyy,” he hiccuped a little. “I was just thinking, you know, that you’ve done a…. a loooot to help me out, soo you know, iff there’sss like, any way I can thank you…”

But as he got closer, he stopped in his tracks. She didn’t smirk at him, or say something sarcastic. She didn’t say anything at all. Just stared at him, shaking her head a little. Doug took one more step towards her, but with one last derisive look, she turned and disappeared into the crowd.

“That… wasn’t Kei,” he whispered out loud, even if he really shouldn’t. Even if he couldn’t see her anymore, he could still feel her eyes on him, judging him. She had every right to, of course. It was this very sort of behavior that had gotten her killed, after all.

For the first time since he’d put on that damn coat, he felt his hands beginning to shake again. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath in, trying to regain his composure, to pretend that he hadn’t just been in the middle of being haunted by a judgmental ghost.

Clearly, there was only one solution. He sighed.

“Have another drink, Doug...”

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