“Tell me again what we are supposed to do with Vithnya’s corpse?” this should be good Hasdrubal thought, gleefully watching his friend perform gruesome mental gymnastics in order to “truthfully” supply information that amounted to nothing of value in the end.
“I told you already. I’m stuck with telling the truth as a consequence of something I believe am completely innocent of!” Samir replied in a bored tone, walking beside his puffing companion. Boy was he starting to get the hang of telling the “truth”!
“Of course you are… Now, that something includes carrying the corpse of an Academy official into Geb’s marketplace at sundown… Why am I nervous about this…?”
“Pah! Nothing to worry about, dear Chap. See?!! I can’t lie and I’m telling you this with confidence!”
“Somehow I’m more nervous now…” is it lying if a crazy person believed it? Hasdy pondered.
“Ok, Fine! I owe you that much from not pushing my point earlier when the scribes decided to go investigate the zealot’s not-great-but-wayyy-not-hellish childhood instead of rescuing your sibling, who’s well alive and suffering under the yoke of some high-ranking master somewhere. And you guys think that I’m the shady one of the bunch! Pah! Oh, by the way, my research is soon to be fortuitous concerning the whereabouts of your dear (and hopefully cute! wink wink) sister. A simple matter of confirming my findings and we’ll be good to go! Aaaanyway, for some reason I don’t think I can share with you, I’m stuck with a truth geas because of some things I miiight (Samir winces in pain at that)… that I proooobably (the painful expression gets worse)… that I most surely did. Hence, for my atonement towards our slave masters, I am to somehow fake dear Vithnya’s death and to assure her bald offspring’s future. Easy peasy!”
“I see… and how do you plan on achieving this, since you won’t be able to lie when you’ll report on her death?” Hasdrubal said, already anticipating having a window into Samir’s inner thought processes.
“Well, I’ll solve this like I solve all of life’s problems, my dear Hasdy: I’ll just wing it!”
Hasdrubal simply sighed. “Of course we’ll do this”.
“We’re close, Samir whispered conspiratorially. Now let’s drop this bag of corpse conservation so we could be more conspicuous”.
Hasdrubal dropped his heavy load to the ground with a sigh of relief. “Why did you make me drag this all the way to here if we’re just going to abandon the corpse for the wild dogs to eat? I know you are good at spewing verbiage like no other, but your ‘condition’ will surely prevent you from spinning a tale of her heroic death if we leave her that way…”
“Huh? Oh! We’re not leaving the corpse, silly! Samir said conversationally while fishing for something inside the bag. We’re just getting rid of some dead weight… now where is… Ah Ha! Found it!” he exclaimed triumphantly, holding a dead mouse in his fist, smiling.
“Hasdrubal, meet our dear hero, Vithnya. I’ve temporarily modified her appearance. Can’t risk witnesses seeing her dead before she’s to die in the most epic, hero-ist of ways, now do we? Now, come along; we need to set up the bait and sit back to wait for a fish worth playing the villain in this little tale of ours!” He winked, strolling along toward a tavern alley.
Hasdrubal blinked, looking at his friend, then at the bag. Curiosity was simply too much for him, so he took a peek inside: rocks… and lots of them.
“You son of a bitch!”
“Well, I told you I needed help moving a corpse, didn’t I? Human remains ARE heavy, yes? Now, be honest: would you have tagged along for an adventure with good ol’ Samir if I didn’t need help moving something heavy? Eh? EH?”
“Now what are we doing here exactly, Samir? Hasdrubal asked. I fail to see how Vithnya’s death could be heroic if she were to meet her end from a lowly thug in a dark alley. This is too cliché, especially for you.”
Samir gasped theatrically. “I’m shocked. Shocked that you would believe that I have such a low level of imagination” Samir nonchalantly said while fiddling with a small metallic box. “There!” he exclaimed, once opened “And now for the bait”.
Samir dropped the dead mouse to the floor and took out one of his many wands hidden within his person. Pointing it toward the dead animal, he whispered a command word and transformed it into a fat house cat. Once the transformation was complete, Samir stared into the box and a small brooch started floating in the air and going towards the cat. “Hmmm, I thought that damned thing was supposed to be some type of necklace… Bah! Never mind, I’ll attach it with a piece of string instead…”
The Rascal Mage fished a small string from one of his many pockets, activated his famous ring and proceeded to tie the brooch around the cat’s neck. “There! Dear Hasdy, pray not touch this beautiful toy of mine, as it is quite deadly. All right! Now, if my contacts are accurate, they should pass by any minute now…
“It’s been two hours, Samir. I’m starting to think your information isn’t as sound as you make it out to be”
“Nonsense! They’re just late is all. Evil minions aren’t the most trustworthy of individuals after all.”
“Ok, so what are we supposed to do exactly? And who are we supposed to helplessly throw into one of your webs of trouble?”
“Well, I spent quite a lot of time in Geb, especially in the many black markets of this fine city. I had to take care of these old bones of mine after the encounter with that damned dragon, remember? And a few minor adjustments, too” Samir said to himself, adjusting his hat.
“So, while asking around (and having a merry time at it might I add), I’ve made quite a few friends with loose tongues, you see? Turns out, nearly everyone in this damned world is trying to conquer the world in one form or another. It was simply a matter of picking which cult or secret society that could play a role in this little story we’re about to knit into a beautiful piece of clothing, if you don’t mind my analogy. So I’ve settled with this scary-looking cult of the Hanged-God. With them most likely residing in the same dark, ominous temple slash abandoned underground lair of some sort (the fools always do!), this would facilitate the second part of my plan, which is money for baldy. Still following me? No? Bah! No matter… So this cult, you see, are trying to open some kind of gate into some kind of weird world where their residents are somehow immortals. But some are not for some reason? And one of those groups don’t have magic or something to that effect. Reallyyyy convoluted details that I didn’t care (or was too drunk to understand at that time) to pay too much mind to is what I’m saying. Anywho, that group is always meeting at this tavern over there. And it happens that one of them has a shy bladder! Can’t stand pissing in the common latrines like us common folks. So he elects to empty his piss bag in this very alley! You see the genius of it? Eh? EH?!!”
Hasdrubal shook his head, more to clear his thoughts than in disbelief. “Okay, I see the plan is to ambush one of the cult members – “
“EVIL cult member” Samir quipped.
“Yeah… evil… So we grab him. Then what? Torture him? You know I’m no Orfée when it comes to the morally ambiguous endeavors, but you know that fanatics never break, right? This will not end well, Samir…”
“Torture? What are you talking… THERE! He’s coming he’s coming!” Samir cried in glee. “Vithnya, now’s your turn! You will single-handedly defeat this evil cultist in order to extract information related to the whereabouts of their most evil and foul lairs! Let us slink back into the shadows a little and watch the show.”
Hasdrubal, confused as to how a dead cat could defeat a capable-looking foe in combat, did not voice his objections for once and followed his weird friend into is domain.
It turned out that the “fight” was a short one. The animated dead cat, under the illusion of a live one, simply walked up to the cultist, while lazily displaying his valuable necklace and rubbing the victim’s leg. Upon seeing the jewelry, the poor sod simply ripped it from the cat and stared at it. A breath of two later, he was having spasms of pain, clutching his chest. Then he was dead.
Samir sauntered into the alley, dagger in hand. “And now to interrogate our newest informant”, he said, turning the corpse over on his belly and starting to carve out the skin of his back.
“How will skinning him help you get him to talk?” Hasdrubal asked, watching the tavern door across the way for signs of discovery.
“Who said anything about talking?” Samir replied, finishing up his work and rolling a big slice of skin into a roll, discreetly shoving it into his sleeve. Taking the same wand as before, Samir sculpted the corpse back to its original form, then proceeded to open its throat. “That one is very fond of the pork ribs this particular establishment serves, you see” Samir said, while taking a small piece of rib bone from his pocket and shoving it into the exposed throat. Using his wand again, he closed the throat and turned the corpse’s skin a bluish tone. “There! Poor sod choked on his meal. That should do it. Now come, Hasdrubal, we have a room waiting in this very tavern!”
Hasdrubal followed his friend inside, past the dead cultist’s friends, and up the stairs to a room.
“Now what?” Hasdrubal asked, afraid of the answer.
“Well, we discover where the evil lair is located, my dear man” Samir exclaimed, satisfied with himself. He laid the corpse’s skin on a small table, took out another one of his wands and whispered the command word. Sure enough, the skin was soon filled with all matters of lines and writings. “And now we have a map of where poor Vithnya will meet her heroic end AND where we’ll find the funds in which to give her poor (and bald! Ha!) daughter a generous stipend for the rest of her life. And, this other world with immortals and whatnot could be precious information I could share to our dear masters in exchange to a little more looking-the-other-way currency. And now to bring the rest of the gang into this little scheme of ours.”
“Of yours you mean”
“Let us not waste time on such trivial details, dear friend. Investigating this cult falls under our mandate, and we’ll be able to kill two birds with one stone so good ol’ Samir will be able to enjoy the freedom of his voice once again!”
“Oh, I can’t wait for that” Hasdrubal whispered sardonically.