It was a dreadful and stormy night in Sapphire City, and the Ne'er-Do-Wells were separated. Carrion was seated at a table in the Red Dragon and had been brooding in peace when he heard a knock on the door. No one knew where to find him or that the restaurant housed both our heroes and an active portal to Hell, but he went to open the door. On it was taped a letter in a pink envelope. On finely embroidered paper were the words, "we need to talk. Come to the island," signed 'C.'
He knew that the woman he'd loved when he was alive, Constanza, was living on the island off the coast of Sapphire where he died, where she killed him. He didn't know what had become of her since, but the fact that Barrow Si, Cerebralsaurus Rex and Dr. Nezhizen all knew about her and her plots worried him. He called the Ne'er-Do-Wells together to plot his next move. Page and Boanna were perturbed by his secrecy about the whole affair. Angus was reluctant to join, claiming that Carrion wouldn't be prepared to do what might have to be done if it turned out Constanza was fighting for the wrong side. Carrion was torn, remembering that good people turned bad all the time. Just recently they'd seen both Boanna and Ivy (now called Puck) fall from grace, and they had just fought a young girl who was being manipulated by a demon of greed. Carrion doubted that, if this woman he once knew was plotting something, there had to be a reason. So they all hesitantly made their way to the local docks in the rain.
There, a boat was docked. None of them quite knew how to drive a boat, especially through a storm, so Boanna scouted ahead for the island just to be safe. She came back having seen a hint of it, and the group made their way there by sea, somehow unharmed. As they approached Carrion couldn't recognize what he was seeing. A Castle had appeared where a modern island house once sat. It was pentagonal with five towers, and a taller one in the center. Lightning and thunder were being attracted to the five smaller towers. Below was a veritable graveyard, and the Ne'er-Do-Wells disembarked to investigate it. The front door of the castle was decorated with a giant pink-ish skull, and as soon as Carrion knocked the rest of his team was knocked unconscious by three individual bolts of lightning. The door opened and a butler with a cybernetic arm welcomed Carrion in, took his coat, and led him upstairs.
On the way Carrion tried to get some information out of the butler, but he responded almost as if he was being brainwashed into silence. He led him up several spiral staircases to a proper throne room, which was darkly lit and painted all black and pink. Most garish of all was a throne made of human skulls, on which was seated the woman he recognized to be his Constanza. She was dressed in a gown made of bones as well, and on her neck hung the pink, skull-shaped necklace he'd purchased for her eleven years ago, whose magic caused his death on the day of the Fey Convergence. She was overjoyed to see him, calling him by his living name- Frederic- and apologizing for everything that had happened. She had hesitated to find him because she thought he'd lost his mind, as the last time they saw each other he was nothing more than a slobbering beast.
She took him through the castle, and he failed completely to remember or recognize any of what he saw. His past was still a mystery to him past the day of his death, and the skull-decorated castle seemed even more mysterious to him. They crossed a tower to a large glowing portal. She wanted to take him somewhere, but said he couldn't be seen the way he was. So she used her magic to restore his live body; everything about Carrion was gone and he was just Frederic again. It felt nice, but this whole night felt wrong on another level. She led him through the portal and her dress transformed into a regular one. Inside was a nice, clean apartment where a pie was baking and two children were seated in the kitchen. The younger girl, Lucy, ran to hug his knees, calling him 'Uncle Freddie' and rejoicing that he was back from his very long trip. The older boy, Barnie, didn't want to look at him. He talked with the children for awhile, trying to gather his thoughts, but he was sure he'd never met them before. Constanza took him into the bedroom and, when he asked her why they called him their uncle, she said that it was "because they couldn't just start calling you dad right away."
He stood flustered in the bedroom while she unlocked another magic door behind her closet. She took him up another spiral staircase to the tallest tower, where a grim-looking black bell decorated with skulls and whanot was hanging. She told him it was called the 'Death's Knell,' and that she planned to use it to kill and raise everyone living within 100 miles of the island so that she'd have a large enough army to fight 'the coming storm.' She told him they could rule their undead kingdom together, like they were always meant to. He protested, saying that no one should have to suffer like he had, but she reassured him that it was for their own good. That all she wanted was for the two of them to be happy. She was truly afraid of something, but she didn't trust Carrion enough to tell him what yet. She knew he had brought friends with him though, and she wanted to have him kill them so they could serve her too. If he couldn't, he could bring them to her and she would do the job for him. She kissed him, returned him to his undead self, and he was led to the lowest-floor dungeon without another word.
In the dungeon, he was locked in a cell, and he saw that the Ne'er-Do-Wells were just beginning to wake up in their own cells. A large zombie with a chainsaw hand- exactly like Dr. Nezhizen's lieutenants- was patrolling the prison. Angus taunted the zombie and used his arm to cut through the bars of his prison, since he had been deprived of his own axe. Page was without her book, and she was slowly losing control of herself, being so far from Gerald for so long. Magic was known to have addictive properties for humans, and Carrion worried about that. Page performed a scrying ritual to try and find Gerald, and all signs pointed upstairs. Angus broke free and used the chainsaw to release the rest of them, but Carrion was finding it difficult to act the part. As the group made their way upstairs in search of their equipment he wondered who he should side with after all.
They found their way to a barracks room full of dormant zombie soldiers, where their equipment was being stored. When they tried to retrieve it the zombies woke up, and they had to fight their way out. Boanna's new dark magic served well to incapacitate many of them, and Carrion's friends had no qualms about killing the zombies for good. He failed many times to lay a finger on them, seeing something of himself in them. Still, he and Angus managed to take one down as an unarmed team, and his spirit was restored. Page took up a spear and gutted one, and when she fought her way back to Gerald she felt herself again. Angus grabbed his axe and a small computer chip they'd found in the chest, the group continued exploring, Carrion playing ignorant all the while. Similar barracks lined the hall, all full of dormant zombies and refrigerators packed with human meat. There were keys on the walls, and they took what they could find.
The Ne'er-Do-Wells wandered their way to a grand room which could only be described as an armory. While browsing the antiquated weaponry they laid eyes on an undead naga, which sprang to life. She laid a few good hits on Angus's bare chest, but he quickly decapitated her in response. He found a second axe and a set of plate-mail, and though he loved the feeling of going 'full Scotsman,' he decided to put it on. They explored further in the other direction and found a sort of treasury room, which was guarded by a single zombie. Carrion tried to talk with him, claiming that the Mistress of the castle had given him permission to see the treasury. He knew this was a lie, and while Page was trying to use the keys she'd found to break into the vault, the zombie teller called security.
In burst two zombie soldiers surrounding the cyborg butler Carrion had met earlier. He immediately fired a rocket-launcher at the group, but the flames slid and diffused off of Angus's platemail-clad muscles. Carrion grabbed the butler, attempting to subdue him and suspecting that the computer chip they found would restore this cyborg to his senses. He ought to have known better though, because when the man was exposed Angus hacked through his head with his axe, killing him instantly. The computer chip dissolved in their hands and Carrion got incredibly angry, saying that none of them had any morals, that they should have listened to him when he told them not to kill the butler, that he knew he wasn't in his right mind. Most of all, the group wondered why Carrion knew that. With innocent blood on his hands and with Boanna intimidating him into breaking down, he confessed that he'd been led through the castle before while they were unconscious, and that Constanza was plotting something big. This brought a rift of mistrust between the Ne'er-Do-Wells, and they continued to explore cautiously. Inside the treasury was a veritable horde of gold coins, all with Constanza's face on them. Page wondered if this was 'currency for her apocalypse,' and they moved on.
In another barracks, they found a tidy bed and a small journal. Angus read it; it belonged to the cyborg, a man called 'John Smith.' In the back of the book was a hit list, on which 'necromancer on private island' was his next target. He'd also listed Jaws, and the book was full of research on the beast. A photo of the man and his family led the group to believe that Jaws had taken their lives, and Smith was a bounty hunter on a vengeance quest. Angus felt the tiniest morsel of remorse and took the journal, a pact to the slain hunter that he would be avenged.
They wandered through many tacky hallways, though a portrait gallery full of pictures of the future Queen of the Dead. One pictured her and her children looking very happy, and Carrion was conflicted all over again. They found some private living areas. One was messy, underwear strewn about and jars of honey lining the walls, while a Spanish flag hung above the bed. In another they found a dresser full of fine perfumes and a coffin lined with pink fabric in which a skimpy set of lingerie was resting. Angus joked that this must be the bedroom Carrion was intended to live in when he became 'king.' The third room was oddly white and full of dismembered body parts. In the center they recognized an old enemy: Dr. Nikolai Nezhizen. Carrion demanded to know why he was working with Constanza and what she intended to do, but he only spouted the generic, 'I build zombies, sell her zombies, she takes over world, et cetera.' They would have interrogated him further had he not produced a large red button from his labcoat, pressed it and disappeared in a cloud of smoke. Blank Page decided to torch the zombie parts before they left the room. Along the way the group kept picking fun at Carrion for, to quote Angus, 'sticking his dick in crazy.' When Carrion explained that she wasn't crazy when they were together, Boanna joked that 'he wasn't doing it right.'
The Ne'er-Do-Wells found themselves in a large banquet hall, where a table was set with no food on it. A busty and rather stereotypical French maid was sweeping, and Carrion grabbed her for questioning. She introduced herself as Danielle and slowly revealed that she was being held here against her will. She'd lead them to the other prisoners if they would help them escape the evil necromancer's castle. She led them to a kitchen, where a large and handsome man was cooking and listening to samba. Danielle dropped the act, and revealed herself as a vampire, while the chef declared that, though he was a werebear, he did not want to eat these nice people she'd brought him. The group surmised that the bedrooms they found belong to these two colorful characters, and the chef was embarrassed that they had seen his business like that. He stormed out of the room, but not before introducing himself- his name was Gregor- and making a pass at Boanna and giving her his business card, just in case men who could turn into bears were her thing. Danielle threatened the group, telling Angus that he'd make a great thrall for breeding. As attractive as he found her he was not going to be made a slave, and he attacked her outright. Page blasted the vampire with a bolt of fire and she was set ablaze. The sight of a woman burning reminded Angus of Ivy and her death, and he went momentarily catatonic, crumbling to his knees. Danielle put herself out with a pot of whatever honey-based soup Gregor had been working on, and seeing her with singed clothing and covered in liquid broke Angus from his shock. His body reacted very quickly and his 'other' axe came out of its sheath, but Danielle dodged all four feet of it with an impressive backbend. Boanna and Page's magic wore her down though, the they finished her off by staking her heart with a wooden spoon and a broken leg of a chair at the same time. They stuffed her mouth with garlic.
With nothing left in the castle to demolish, the Ne'er-Do-Wells proceeded to the throne room, Carrion convinced that he couldn't just follow Constanza's orders blindly. There was something comically wrong with this kingdom she was building, but he couldn't shake the feeling that, whatever she was so afraid would happen if she didn't fight back, that she was justified in her actions. Boanna mentioned how tacky the castle was; Carrion responded that she'd missed 700 years of style while she was incorporeal, and she came back with the crack that "I don't think technicolor and skull decor were ever in style." He led them to the portal, through which the children were waiting. He tried to stop them from continuing, but they didn't trust him enough to deal with Constanza on his own, so- after Page made Carrion appear like Frederic again with her magic- they all entered the apartment together. There, the children were all too happy to see them. Lucy was a fan of the Ne'er-Do-Wells and had collected all of their coloring books and figurines, produced by Banana Industries, an offshoot of The Monkey King's empire. Angus swore to sue for copyright infringement when they got back to the city.
Lucy told them that her mother was very busy preparing for a business meeting. "She's going to be new president," she says confidently, knowing her mother to be a very prominent local politician already. Barnie finds The Ne'er-Do-Wells and especially Frederic totally lame, preferring 'The Guninator' vastly. Apparently he is a fictional hero who shoots guns... that shoot guns, that shoot guns, that shoot smaller guns... that shoot tiny, tiny bullets. While Angus argued about the logic behind this with Barnie, Carrion tried to learn more about the children. But Barnie refused to trust him, saying that he didn't remember having an 'Uncle Freddie' and that he obviously wasn't related to his mother. He asked Carrion bluntly who he was to her, but he was dumbstruck. Lucy then said that he was just Uncle Freddie, and that when their daddy came back from his equally long vacation, they were all going to live together and be the best of friends. Carrion, knowing that he had killed their father as a fresh zombie, broke down. He had Page dispel the illusion and the children saw Carrion for what he really is. Lucy thought it was pretty cool, but Barnie confessed that he was the lamest of all the Ne'er-Do-Wells. Lucy told him that he didn't have to worry, that he was a good person no matter what anyone said about him. Carrion told them that he'd make everything right, that he would talk to their mother and when he was done, they'd tell them the whole story, together. He couldn't face the fact that he'd wrecked this family all alone, so he took The Ne'er-Do-Wells to the bedroom to pursue Constanza.
Upon some investigation, they found the magical key to the next tower to be a pair of red stilettos in her closet. Page opened the lock, expressing her disappointment for those children and their not realizing their father was never coming home. Carrion, equally disturbed, led them to the bell tower. There, Constanza was waiting, disappointed in him for having failed to do what was asked of him. He told her that she could trust him and the Ne'er-Do-Wells, that they would help her with whatever it was she foresaw. She just mumbled that he didn't understand, and that she'd tell him what was going on "as soon as these distractions from your false life are eliminated." She imbued three gargoyles on her tower with life and they sprang at our heroes. Blank Page eliminated one almost instantly with a blast of lightning and it crumbled to pieces. Boanna laid her assault directly on the sorceress, but she swiftly dodged her hex-bolts and complained that her dress was almost ruined. She retaliated with a blast of flesh-rotting acid at Boanna's chest, which ate through her clothes and began to burn her purple skin. Noticing that Angus had stolen some of her armor, she offered to help him 'take it off,' and her magic steadily ate through his defenses as well, though his chest hair diffused most of the damage.
Carrion cried that she had to stop what she was doing, that nothing could justify what she'd planned. He disarmed one of the gargoyles and used its club to smash its head in, and it stumbled blindly off the tower. Constanza looked sadly at him, trying to exert her influence over his mind, but momentarily failed. Angus took down the last one with his throwing-axe. With all the power in her magical amulet Constanza released a cloud of poison gas, which began to seep through Page's system. Wounded as she was, she had little option but to tap into a power she'd never known she had before. Gerald opened to a page in his back-section with black paper and dripping, bloody text. She chanted the spell she found there and was cured of her poison, but resisted the obviously wicked influence of the secret text. Angus and Boanna focused their attacks on Constanza, wearing down her barriers even as she began to float through the air. She looked directly at Carrion, telling him that she'd 'make him understand,' and his mind was swiftly dominated by her influence. Whispers in his brain told him to kill his friends, so he attacked Boanna, however unsuccessfully. The others had Constanza down to her weakest and, she was crawling on her hands and knees just trying to grab at the vulnerable Page. Seeing Angus ready himself to finish her off, Carrion rushed over to put himself between her and the axe.
With the magical axe firmly embedded in his shoulder Carrion was shaken from his mental hold, and he saw Constanza defeated on the ground. She asked him if he was going to let his friends kill her and he promised that he wouldn't; but he couldn't let her kill them either. She decided, weakened as she was, that she could trust him at last. She was about to tell him exactly what it was she was so afraid of when the familiar pop of a teleportation spell was heard and she vanished from Carrion's arms. Lily appeared then, silent and staring. She said that she couldn't let them take Constanza in an uncharacteristically monotone voice, and then she disappeared. Boanna worried, wondering what would cause her sister to act so strangely. Carrion sat there in the rain, just as alone as he had been before this night, and grieved.
Back in the apartment, the children wondered why their mother wasn't with him when he returned. He gathered his courage and told them that someone bad had taken her away, but that he would get her back and make things right. Lucy cried, wondering who would take care of them until then. Carrion wanted to, but the others knew that someone as dead as he was couldn't possibly raise two children on his own. Boanna had an idea. She phoned the number on Gregor's business card and he appeared almost instantly, gallantly offering to cook for these children as he'd always cooked for their mother. He handed Boanna a rose, which she instantly killed with her dark magic. She wanted to like him, but she warned him that the last man who'd tried to court her turned out to be her father, and then he murdered and tortured her for seven centuries. So she wasn't sure she was quite ready for a relationship just yet. Gregor understood completely and promised not to approach her again until she was ready.
The Ne'er-Do-Wells parted with the children on amiable terms and continued their quest for the truth of what was really going on. A newspaper on the kitchen table told them that they were in Washington, DC, and they made their way back through the portal to Sapphire City.