Author's Obligatory Note: This fic (like every other MK-related thing I write) works off several premises I establish in my Salome-centric story Wishes. However, it's a stand-alone. The only thing you need to know is that I think (and I think the game indirectly supports this) that Zetta and Salome were actually a couple during her apprenticeship (bear in mind that I haven't read any of the novels; if you have and notice I've totally ruined the canon, feel free to let me know). This story takes place pre-game (somewhere during chapter 6, if you've read Wishes). Oh yes, and there is no band named Epitaph. I made both it and the song up, so there is no copyright issue here. Have a nice day.

However, I did lift the "two people singing a duet while one's in a shower" from the movie Elf, though in this case neither participant is aware that it's going on.


Disclaimer: Makai Kingdom is the property of Nippon Ichi Software. Rating is for language, violence and suggestive themes. Though this is a humor story, it deals with dark stuff in a lighthearted way, so some content may be disturbing and/or triggering.


Isn't Life Swell?

1

Oh yes. It was a good day to be King Drake the Third.

The Lion Overlord crouched in the sludge, a loyal brawler at either elbow, a pair of plastic binoculars held to his glowing red eyes. The military camp was spread two-hundred yards away in the swamp, small mountain ranges of hastily pitched olive green tents interspersed by sputtering campfires. Drake's black feline lips drew apart in a snarling grin. The enemy's scouts had been no match for Drake's men, not when they had Molotov Cocktails. Though his forces were meager, they were the truest any Overlord could desire.

Pepe, on his right, wiped his nose with a muddy finger. Come to think of it, Drake realized, coming, in fact, to think of it, they were all a bit mucky from belly-crawling in the mud. Drake's eyes focused from Pepe to the two grand tents at the camp's center. Well. Those no doubt would be equipped with showers.

Drake cleared his throat. "Forward march!"

Shlupshlupshlupshlup. They elbow-crawled eastward through the goop.

Drake called a halt after twenty yards, checking their cover. It was an ideal swamp for concealment, literally choked by skeletal trees and slimy vines and walls of mosquitoes.

Drake leaned forward, his fuzzy, cup-shaped ears angled towards the camp. In a moment, he heard it -the sound of half his forces attacking the camp from the west, screaming that everyone was about to die BWA HAW HAW HAAAAAW!

"Go!" Drake shouted. With a loud SHOOP! sound, he and his ten brawlers extracted themselves from the muck and went hurtling towards the camp, muddy feet flapping.

They slowed down when they actually got there.

The camp was now deserted. All of the enemy fighters had been drawn into the extreme west of the swamp. Even the cooks had picked up their spatulas and gone.

Yes, Drake thought, his eyes growing wondrously wide as he surveyed the camp. This is the perfect day to be ME.

They trooped to the camp's center, to the two large tents. Drake wheeled to face his soldiers, flinging mud from his curly blue mane and long cape. "Okay. We have to make the most of this opportunity. Calixtus, Enkidu -go raid the merchants' tents, grab all the weapons and armor you can carry. Ulric, you and Othello are our watchmen. As soon as you see the enemy returning, get your backsides back here. Apollo, Moncharmin and Pepe -grab those wheelbarrows and follow me!"

And with that, King Drake proudly led them through the tent flap of Overlord Zetta's private, personal, exclusive tent.

"Ooooo," ooooed Moncharmin. "How'd he bring that Jacuzzi?"

"Never mind the Jacuzzi," Drake commanded (after casting one envious look at the hot tub by the enormous black-curtained bed). "Focus on what we can cart out."

"Like this?" Apollo held up a potted blood-oozing cactus.

"No, not like that! Unless you want me to scrub your face with it-"

"Like this?" Pepe asked, holding up an enormous six-bladed chainsaw.

"Yes, like that! Okay, Pepe, you look through his weapons chest. Apollo, you focus on his dresser drawers."

"Dresser drawers?"

Drake chuckled, rubbing his paws together. "Why should we leave him any spare clothes while he's fighting in a swamp? Anyway, check out the drawers. Moncharmin, you search the room to see where he hides his money. I'll..." Drake's eyes got a contemplative look. He blushed under his fur.

Oh my-

How could he even think of-

That was positively incredible-

He couldn't believe that'd he'd even consider such a-

But still, why not? It would be a while before they got this chance again -and what self-respecting Overlord wouldn't exploit all his enemy's resources? "I will be -er, back. Shortly." He turned quickly and strode out of the tent.

"Dude," said Apollo as he dumped the contents of Zetta's sock drawer onto the ground. "Did he look guilty?"

Moncharmin was fiddling with the Jacuzzi's controls. "Way guilty."

oOoOoOoOo

Drake had not gone far. All he'd done was get another wheelbarrow and cross over to the other large tent. Drake paused at the flap, his fuzzy fingers lingering over it. This is for strictly military reasons, nothing...er...um...strange...odd...or perverse...about it. He mentally cleared his throat. Right. He flung wide the tent flap and boldly stepped into the home-away-from-home of Lord Zetta's One and Only Beloved Apprentice.

The beguiling scent of mountain jasmine greeted his nostrils. Drake's nose whiffled a few times appreciatively, then he set his mind to his mission.

The first thing he observed was another four poster bed, smaller than Zetta's and colored deep red. To the bed's left was the door to the bathroom, to the right was an ornate black vanity. Drake walked over and studied himself in the mirror. He used a corner of the bed's coverlet to clean his face a bit.

Drake's attention was instantly claimed by a large trunk to the side of the vanity, made of wood and reinforced with three iron bands. There had been another one like it, and Pepe had found Zetta's chainsaw within. Filled to the brim with dangerous levels of greed and glee, Drake withdrew his universal lock-pick and pounced. In a moment, he'd jerked the top up. He dove a paw in and come up with a tube of

hand lotion?

Drake read the label a second time. Orange and ginger hand lotion. Drake snarled. Unless this was some clever disguise for a hand grenade... He tossed the tube over his shoulder, hearing it bounce on the bed.

The next handful yielded a box containing two pink egg-shaped somethings mysteriously labeled "bath fizzies" (pomegranate-citrus scented), and the third handful was rewarded by a pair of glittery blue bedroom slippers. Snarling in frustration, Drake threw the slippers against the vanity. They hit a drawer, popping it open a bit, just enough for Drake to glimpse the clutch of a semiautomatic tucked inside.

Ooooo. Drake perched on the velvet vanity seat and opened the drawer further. It was a semiautomatic. And there was a cute little antiaircraft gun in the drawer under it. And in the jewelry box? A collection of throwing knives and silver bullets. Oooo, and down here, swords...

Feeling chipper, Drake began to sing one of his favorite songs as he rapidly filled his wheelbarrow with lethal weapons.

"Isn't life sweet, isn't life swell,

When your morals run pell-mell?

Well, maybe there's a thief afraid of hell,

But I know flames ain't no place to dwell."

oOoOoOoOo

It was actually a very popular song, being Epitaph's Top 666 Hit of '85. Over in Lord Zetta's tent, the brawlers had been blessed with such good fortune that they too were inclined to sing.

"And isn't life grand when you're uncouth?" Moncharmin sang, slipping into a Jacuzzi full of luxurious purple bubbles.

Pepe was trying to figure out how to get a fifteen foot long pike into his wheelbarrow. "Sure as you're a bore, that's the simple truth."

"You don't need a doctor, don't need a sleuth," Apollo sang, trying on one of Zetta's many leather jackets (the one with all the little steel spikes on the shoulders and the red lining). He kept it on and tossed a heap of Zetta's leather pants into the wheelbarrow. "Coz there's rude and you're its perfect proof!"

"Proof and sleuth so don't rhyme," Moncharmin observed before sinking languidly under the bubbles.

oOoOoOoOo

Drake had found the apprentice's jewelry stashed in the hilt of a long black claymore (What was her name again, the little human witch? Salade?). He took a moment to run his claws through a rope of blood-red pearls before dumping the claymore and its contents into his now-groaning wheelbarrow. Drake got up from the vanity. Hmmm, still lots of good stuff to get here. Like those pillowcases -those must be silk. Sheesh, the human dame gets silk. Drake picked up something that appeared to be a long, shimmery burgundy towel. Well, that was pretty. Would probably get a few hundred HL. In it went with the swords and guns and pearls. Over to her writing desk. Whuh -what was this? Hee hee, she had a little Zetta plushie doll. Oh just look at this! Little chibi Zetta! Drake squeezed the plush tummy. A little tinny version of Zetta's voice proclaimed "I'm the most badass freakin' Overlord in the universe!" Oh, that was just priceless. Into the wheelbarrow. What else...Oh, this prinny-headed pen was to die for. Ooo, the eyes lit up when you wrote! Chuckling, Drake wrote on a sheaf of stationary "KING DRAKE is the most badass freakin Overlard in the universe!" and moved on. Too bad the prinny-pen hadn't come with spellcheck. Okay, now let's see about these drawers... Drake was so caught up in his rummage fest, had been, in fact, so caught up since the moment he'd entered, that he'd never noticed that the shower in the bathroom was running.

oOoOoOoOo

When the alt-heavy metal band Epitaph wrote a hit, they wrote a hit. Even Salome, Zetta's human apprentice, was singing it as she showered. The noise of the water would drown out her voice to any listeners, but she could hear her own ringing alto perfectly well, due to the shower stall's fabulous acoustics.

"And when you're a bore there's nothing more to be done,

Than shoot your cuffs and bring on the fun."

Salome paused a moment as she worked melon-cucumber scented shampoo into her short blonde hair, not wanting any shampoo to trickle into her mouth (always a danger to shower-singers).

"Once you've got the civilized world on the run,

Then call it a day and become a nun."

"OR NOT!" Drake sang lustily as he flung wide Salome's wardrobe, getting an eyeful of about twenty slinky dresses and high-heeled sandals. "If you've not shot your bolt-" He dove into the wardrobe.

"If you ain't out to pasture," Salome sang, blinking soap out of her eyes, "then you're still a colt!

"If you're an eagle not about to molt-" She twisted the shower head, cutting off the water. She was just stepping out of the shower and reaching for her towel when she heard, from the main room of her tent -

"JUST GO ROCK OUT, DON'T BE A DOLLLLLLLLLT!"

Salome's eyes narrowed. A dangerous thing, Zetta could've told Drake. Salome took just long enough to tuck her towel around herself before she flung the bathroom door wide open.

oOoOoOoOo

"Duuuuuude," said Moncharmin, taking another swig of whiskey from Zetta's personal mini-bar. "They could've used 'tooth'. Tooth rhymes with 'sleuth'."

Pepe, from his seat by the weapons trunk where he was busy sorting mallets into piles of Large, Very Large, and Strictly for Elephantine Adversaries, nodded. Apollo, spritzing some of Zetta's cologne on, also nodded.

oOoOoOoOo

Drake backed out of the closet, whistling happily. He hadn't found much useful except for a pair of shoes -red leather six-inch stiletto heels. As in, actual stiletto daggers for the heels (they probably were very useful during bouts of otherwise unarmed combat). Just as he'd lobbed the pumps into the wheelbarrow, he thought he heard the sound of water dripping on the floor and whirled in the direction of the bathroom.

Drake's red eyes went as round and wide as stoplights.

This was his first real view of Zetta's much-rumored apprentice, and this particular view was only wearing a towel. Granted, it was a very large towel, covering all requisite areas and long enough to be halfway to her knees (it was also black, monogrammed with little gold Ss attached to silver batwings. In case you were interested). Granted, Drake wasn't exactly humanoid, being a muscley lion demon, and demons in general are apt to look down on humans. Still, there were a few seconds when Drake just stared at her, her tall, curvy figure, her glistening pale skin, her sleek golden hair, her gracefully long ears and her sharply narrowed red eyes.

"Ah," he choked after those few seconds. "You must be Salami."

oOoOoOoOo

"Or," Moncharmin said, eating a chocolate bar he'd discovered under Zetta's pillow, "they could've used 'youth'. Youth would've worked. You know, something like Don't need a doctor, don't need a sleuth/ Coz you're rude and crude and it's not just youth. Yup," Moncharmin nodded, taking another bite of dark chocolate-walnut-truffle goodness.

Apollo lifted a pair of chain-link shoelaces from Zetta's bureau. "Shoot. How often do you think he uses these?"

oOoOoOoOo

"Salome."

"Heh?" Drake asked, mouth a little dry. This human wench had more curves than a scenic route.

"Salome."

"Oh...er... Salaam to you too."

Her eyes narrowed even further.

"Well." Drake cleared his throat and glanced at the wheelbarrow, gauging his options. He wasn't going to be carting that off, not now. With any luck, his lackeys would've already gathered a good haul. With any luck, he'd be getting out of here alive. He started to back towards the door, a smarmy smile bisecting his face. "I was just, er, helping you with your spring cleaning. But you probably want to get dressed now, so I'll just be going-"

"Wait."

"Eh -no -I don't think so-"

"Aren't you going to take the wheelbarrow?"

Drake came up short. "Heh?"

Salome snapped her fingers. "You heard me. I ordered all this stuff to be carted out! I've been waiting for you all morning. I'm in the middle of a swamp, for badness sake, don't leave me with all this junk!"

"Oh -er-" Drake instantly assumed the attitude of a solicitous demon servant. "Yes, your ladyship, of course!" He bounded over to the wheelbarrow and lifted the handles. "My apologies!" He wheeled the barrow around and went trotting out the door, his tail lashing blithely. He only stopped when he realized she'd followed him out, conjuring a magical walkway to keep her feet clear of the mud.

Drake turned to look at her. About fifteen feet lay between them. "Er, yes?"

"You forgot your payment.

Salome didn't do much. Merely pouted her lower lip slightly. Drake's eyes widened. Oh. Oh my. He, of course, wasn't planning on anything lengthy. After all, he was almost home-free. And, come to think of it, he was also married. But a kiss? Well now, wouldn't that be interesting? He'd never kissed a human before. Oh, there were rumors about humans carrying all sorts of hideous diseases (such as rabies), but those were probably nothing. Besides, wouldn't it be fun to rub this episode in Zetta's pointy face later?

Drake released the barrow and strode over to her.

Of course the enormous Mana-nulling cage dropped from the trees above him long before he got anywhere near her.

oOoOoOoOo

"Or even," Moncharmin observed, snuggled up in Zetta's bed with a large black pillow pressed against his cheek, "they could'uff said 'noof'." He took a another slug of Vanilla Choke mixed with bourbon. "Yeh know...yer rude...yer shrewd...you are a noof."

"Dude," Pepe said, trying to figure out the difference between Zetta's Estoc and his Schiavona (honestly, they both just looked like swords to him, and he was a sword master), "noof rhymes with proof. Proof is what we're trying not to rhyme."

Apollo turned away from the full-length mirror in Zetta's armoire. He was wearing about seven belts, one slung slantwise over his left hip, one slung slantwise over his right hip, two buckled around his right thigh, one buckled around his chest, one around his arm, and one actually holding his pants up. "Hey, do you think King Drake will let me keep these?"

oOoOoOoOo

"Gwaaah!" Drake stopped short as the cage snapped shut around him, even sealing off the mud with a Mana-nulling floor. Drake whirled back towards the wheelbarrow. It, of course, was on the other end of the bars.

"I didn't think it would make such a good cat carrier," a soft voice said.

Drake whirled on her. "A trick! Damn you, Salmagundi!"

"The first thing I'm going to do," she replied sweetly, "is teach my cat my name." She smiled. "My name is-" Suddenly there was a tide of fire from her open palm, and Drake was slammed backwards against the rungs of his cage. "-Salome. You must be King Drake."

"The Third," he huffed, pulling himself back to his feet.

Salome raised her fine eyebrows. "Really? Couldn't Drake the Second have done better?"

Drake growled deep in his throat. Then he had to cough a few times. When he looked up, Salome had come right up to the cage, the magical path keeping up with her feet.

"Maybe I'll start a zoo," she mused. "Zetta can always use new sources of revenue."

"Your precious Zetta is a scrawny, pasty, fluffy-haired-"

"Or maybe I'll make him a lionskin coat for his birthday."

"Er-"

"I wonder what sort of leather lion hide would come up with."

"Very bad leather. Trust me. He, er, wouldn't thank you."

"What were you doing here?" Salome asked, finally getting down to hard facts.

Drake sputtered. "Robbing you blind! Did it look like anything else?"

"True, but why does the exalted King Drake the Product of Two Very Uninspired Generations have need to steal?"

"I don't have any reason! I just -psychological warfare is crucial to successful -eh, hey! Where are you going?" By then, Salome had meandered back into her tent, leaving Drake quite alone.

He spun in the direction of Zetta's tent. "Moncharmin! Apollo! PEPE!"

oOoOoOoOo

"Man," said Apollo, "this guy has a great CD collection."

"Turn it up," Pepe said, wanting some louder music to focus him while he inventoried Zetta's war flails, his double-star flails and his cat-o-nine tails before moving onto the falchions and badelaires. After that, he would be considering the cinquedea, the coustille and the sgian dubh, but not until he'd figured out how to pronounce the last one.