James Duggen tossed the clockwork knight down into the pit with the others, dusting off his hands and taking a seat for a moment. Randall Savache came down to sit beside him, tossing him his lunch box.
“Another one that won’t work?”
James shook his head. “Breaks down too easily. Honestly, steam and coal are our only options, and neither of them holds up long enough. If all goes well, this civilization won’t be rediscovered for at least a thousand years, and the foreman wants all of our defenses still up and running when the first archeologists come poking around.”
Randall smirked, laughing into his sandwich. “I hear you. I have to design a pit trap mechanism in the floor that makes the walls close in, something that won’t rust to complete uselessness in a millenia. It’s ridiculous. This company expects too much. I used to be with an outfit that only hid ruins for a hundred years, max. Much easier to design equipment for.”
James rolled his eyes. “Couldn’t have paid you that well. Is it even worth being a lost civilization if you’re only gone for a hundred years?”
“Not really. For a lousy hundred years, you’re lucky if the place is even going to be cursed, or have even one ancenstral evil lurking in it. A project like this could have up to five or six unspeakable horrors, even having a fiendish deity or two in the woodwork. I always wanted to work on security for a freakish god from beyond time and space, something I can be proud of to the kids, you know?”
James drank virgin’s blood from his recyclable plastic bottle, wiping his mouth. “I hear ya. Just sucks having to build all of these unsettling husks. It’s hard to get the creepy movements down short of loading them with shoddy parts. Honestly, I think it would just be easier to use undead.”
Randall closed his lunch pail, swiping crumbs from his lap. “You know what the necromancer’s union wants if they even lift a finger. This project is already way over budget. The essence of human suffering isn’t all that easy to collect and store, and those guys want at least fifty years of agony and fear a head to even show up on-site. You can’t just go out and make more of that stuff. It has to be harvested.”
James snapped his fingers. “Speaking of that, how’s your harrowing garden coming along?”
“Pretty good. The children wail themselves to sleep every night, and the lamenting is almost at a point where I can bottle and store it for the summer.”
“It was a pretty hard summer last year, wasn’t it?”
Randall nodded. “It was a long stretch. With all of the barbeques and lawn parties, there just wasn’t a lot of suffering and misery. The stores almost ran dry, since so many people were having fun instead of loosing woeful cries into the night. The family had to subsist on this one internet blogger who wrote sad poetry about his semi-depressing life. We all lost quite a bit of weight, I’ll tell you that.”
“Thank the fell gods for teenagers. Always got something to be upset about.”
The Trumpet of Despair sounded, the cries of a thousand dead rolling over the ruined crypts. Randall stood up, cracking his back.
“You going to come out and sacrfice a village with us tonight? The boys haven’t seen you around the charnel pits in a couple of days, and we’re starting to worry about you.”
“Sorry. Board game night with the lady.”
Randall smirked. “Really?”
“She’s kind of new age. Thinks the planet is inhabited by peaceful gods interested in our well-being instead of the all-powerful malevolent forces who toy with our lives and sanity for their entertainment.”
James shrugged. “I know, but the kids like her.”
“I guess that’s all you’d need. She has to be better than Stacy, at any rate.”
“It’s not hard to be better than an amorphous gas made up of the last breath of dead orphans, though.”
They both laughed, heading back to work.