Valsoth boldly walked towards the old abandoned storehouse that stood on the outskirt of the Sewers District. His steps had a spring to them, as if they had finally found a purpose long-sought, making the waddling of the little fat man all the more comical, if not pathetic to the few onlookers still up this late in the night.
His contact’s rendez-vous point was a great choice, the necromancer thought. The place had become feared among the locals since a few months ago. Until recently, the facility had been rented by an insane, ever-grinning old man that the locals of this small, innocuous city-state soon slapped him with the monicker Rat King.
Indeed, a day after settling in, the poor fool set the local urchins on a city-wide hunt for rats and other vermin, paying 3 coppers for each kills the orphans brought back to him.
None knew what the King was doing with his cache of dead rodents, but the smell of death and decay emanating from the place soon contended with the pungent air of the open sewers nearby, making all but the most courageous (or foolhardy) adventurer give the storehouse a wide berth.
The city officials were alerted, of course, but the drastic reduction of diseases among the poor, coupled with the (modest, yet not insignificant) money injected into the city’s economy and, of course, the unfavorable location of the storehouse made the bureaucrats turn a blind eye to the problem, deciding instead to delay their intervention for the day the old fool would stop pissing his money away into their coffers.
It turns out the problem solved itself, for the corpse of the King was found in an alley behind a popular tavern one cold, misty morning. The corpse had been brutally murdered and left naked to become rat food (if rats still lived in the city, that is), but there was no doubt in everyone’s minds: this was indeed the corpse of the Rat King.
The news of the murder was the gossip of the week among all the social strata of the city and soon after an enterprising band of thieves broke into the storehouse, looking for the remnant of the King’s seemingly endless horde of copper coins. The expedition proved disastrous (some rumors even say deadly for some of the burglars), for soon tales of ghost sightings made the place feared by all.
The owner was unable to rent a haunted place and soon had to sell the building for a pittance to an anonymous buyer.
Who was it? No one knew, but the consensus was that the new owner must be foreign, for no one who knew of the place would be stupid enough to buy it.
Yes, a perfect spot for this transaction, Valsoth thought, grinning in anticipation.
His crew had arrived before him in wagons and had scouted the outside of the building, reporting the place safe and secured.
Nodding to his trusty lieutenant, he knocked imperiously on the huge door with his staff and opened it, walking inside smugly, accompanied by his bodyguard and a few trusted henchmen. The rest stood guard outside.
Their steps soon faltered and came to an abrupt halt at the sight before them. There was no question about what they saw. All knew what they had just witnessed. This was no man standing before them, but a huge blue dragon, for they had come inside just in time to see the beast transform into a human form.
All of Valsoth’s lackeys looked nervously towards their chief, unsure on what to do. No words needed be exchanged between them though: the plan of killing the seller and making off with the loot was now out of the question.
“Now now, Valzy, have you left your manners in that shitty swamp of yours you call your ‘domain’?” Zassrion playfully said, grinning.
The Necromancer shook off the cold, creeping fear he felt tightening his lungs and resumed his imperious poise. “My apologies, Zassrion. I’m simply too eager to make this deal. 50 gold pieces for a zombie is a great deal. The going price in Geb is usually 90 gold pieces. You’ll forgive my suspicions on the quality of the merchandise, yes?
“Of course”, Zassrion said, still grinning. “The goods are stored in the next room. You are more than welcome to inspect them. Once you are satisfied, we can talk payment”.
And with that, Zassrion slid himself into a nearby chair and put his feet up, waiting.
The Necromancer soon came back, excitedly smiling. “These specimens are of incredible quality, Zassrion! The corpses are all of fighting quality! My army of the undead shall conquer Taviros within a month! I shall wipe the priesthood of Phos from Lyria!”
Valsoth was spluttering in excitement now, gobs of spit flying everywhere.
“Of course they are of quality, my friend. How could it be otherwise with me? I will forgive the impertinence of your doubts about the price of my goods, as you’ve seen my true form and I assume you are smart enough to know that my kind has a lifespan that makes a lower profit irrelevant when accounted for a few thousand years of living. ‘Slowly but steady’ as the saying goes, eh?”
“Anyway”, the dragon continued, “I took really good care in selecting the best human corpses I could find and I’ve magically enhanced them with an ancient spell at my disposal. They should prove more than a match for the conquering campaign you are soon to launch on those Phos followers.”
“Yes! They shall rue the day they banished me!” Valsoth exclaimed.
“So it’s settled, then. 50 gold pieces per corpse. And the wands to animate & control them yourself are included, of course. Say, would you be interested in acquiring the Onyx of the Lich? Perhaps a demonstration would be in order, yes?” Zassrion, holding what looked like an ordinary black-painted rock, jumped to his feet and shoved it in Valsoth’s hands. “Come with me and try turning a bunch of undead so you’ll see what I’m talking about”
“This artefact is amazing, Zassrion! I usually can animate between five and eight zombies per spell used. But while holding the Onyx of the Lich, I can animate thirty of them! I want this item, even if it will ruin me!”
“Ah, I see that I am dealing with a smart man. Who cares about your fortune if you’ll have the gold of a whole kingdom once you’ve conquered them all? I knew I put my trust in the right man!” Zassrion cheerily said, patting Valsoth amicably on the shoulder. “Now, about the price of that artefact…”
“Zassrion” waved the thugs goodbye.
Once he saw the last corpse-filled wagon turning the corner, he closed the door of his storehouse, smiling.
“Well, that’s that!” he said. “I’m now the proud owner of a storehouse in Taviros and I now have the funds to build my own tavern back in Whadi. Oh, and a shitload of cash to inundate the surrounding region with tales and statues of our dear Mewling Quims Leader! Maybe I should give him a nice gold necklace to add to his collection as an added gift to a safe place for his sister to live once we’ve saved her. I hope she’s cute!”
He inserted his port key into the huge door, hopped on the gold-filled wagon he was able to add to the deal with Valsoth, and “tchk thck” the horses forward, towards the portal leading to the Academy.
“Say, I wonder how much it would cost to make a necklace that magically shows random slogans of my choosing to passersby, but to be invisible to the wearer…”
“Welcome, Samir. Please sit down.”
Pithic sighed inwardly. His casefile kept getting thicker and thicker, with no solution in sight and nothing to show his superior in matters of progress, making the case worker cranky as of late.
“I see that you are unaccounted for vast swaths of time since your return to the Academy. We’ve talked about this, young man. You are supposed to fill your presence form for each moments of the day that you are present within these walls”
“I know that, dear Pithic. Not being INSIDE the Academy does not warrant me filling this stupid form, yes? Ha! Checkmate, bureaucrat! Hahahahaha!”
“I… gods damnit! That was not the intent of this disciplinary exercise! You know damn well that we need to know your every moves!”
“Doesn’t look like this is what’s written on my disciplinary slip, yes? Not my fault you are making loopholes so blatantly obvious”
“ENOUGH! Now, where were you the past few weeks?”
“While I was here? Well, check the form and you’ll…”
“You know damn well what I mean! There’s been a report of a failed invasion in Taviros by an idiot using an army of sewer rats sculpted in the shape of human zombie warriors! What have you to say for yourself? You ARE known to favor that spell above all else, you know! And the confession of that Valsoth fellow pointed to a person matching your… facial mannerisms…”
“Honestly? I think calling this thing an ‘invasion’ is stretching it a little bit. I mean, the first village attacked boasted 500 souls and they MASSACRED this so-called ‘army of the walking dead’ numbering over 20 000 defective zombies. And dear Pithic, as an intelligent person, you know, of course, that I do not hold a monopoly over smiles. I assume that by ‘facial mannerisms’, you mean smiles, yes?”
“Indeed… I’ve seen the wands workshop list of check-in names and you’ve been in there for a mighty long time. What were you doing in there?”
“Probably wands, I guess?”
“I KNOW DAMN WELL THAT YOU MAKE WANDS IN A WANDS WORKSHOP!” Pithic screamed, froth coming out of his mouth. “What I want to know is what kinds of wands were you making? Where are they?!”
“Well, it turns out I suck at wand-making” Samir nonchalantly replied. “They were all duds, you see.”
Pithic’s shoulders dropped and he let out a long, overdrawn groan.