Monday, November 16, 2009

The Necropolis of Alkhezzar - Part IV

"You were right, Fafnir." Pops chuckled. "Oh were you ever right." Pops' eyes danced and sparkled with barely contained giddiness.

"Found something?" Fafnir asked quietly.

"Heard something," came the reply. Pops leaned in conspiratorially. "It's that Thomas guy. The Lady and the surgeon were settling him in. He was sort of in and out of it. Started mumbling ..." Pops paused and let the tension build. All of his weight was shifted forward.

"If he was a child, he would be skipping and dancing," thought Fafnir. Out loud he finally asked, "And?"

"It's the Alkhezzar." The word burst out of Pops in a bubble of glee.

"What?" Fafnir grimaced. "No. No. No. The fantastical lost necropolis that has been leading you around by your ... stomach, from one dive bar to the next and so far has turned up nothing?"

"I wouldn't cast our adventures in that light ..." Pops said.

"I would!" Fafnir's eyes flashed. "And don't call them adventures. Gambling with throat cutters for beer money in a rat infested tavern whores wouldn't enter isn't an adventure. It's idiocy. Just like your obsession with this vanished city of the dead."

"Lost necropolis." Pops insisted with an impatient tone. "There is a difference." Fafnir glared. "And it does exist," Pops added hastily.

"And Thomas, delirious with blood loss, disoriented, barely living let alone conscious...he just happened to confirm your every suspicion?"

"Well ..." Pops shuffled his feet. "He mentioned a map. Something about keeping it safe."

Fafnir sighed and gave Pops a rueful glance. "Let me guess the remainder, my honorable friend. Upon hearing of a map of unknown quality, content, and veracity you had to see it for yourself. You slipped away from whatever door you were listening at and ..."

"Hey..." Pops interjected.

"From whatever door," Fafnir continued over him. "Slipped away, rooted through his things. Found it. Took it. And are now trying to convince me that you have, finally, after months of not doing any real research, found a clue to your mysterious city."

"Well. Not exactly." Pops started rummaging through the nearby desk. The room was large. It was an overnight room for one guest and had a small writing desk near one corner. Pops, Fafnir knew, could not let a closed drawer remain unclosed.

"He probably doesn't even know he is doing it," thought Fafnir.

"What then exactly?" he asked the halfling.

"It is a map to the key." Pops proclaimed proudly.

"The key?" Fafnir sighed. The faintest beginnings of a headache were forming. He needed sleep. Soon.

"Yes. The key points the way to the necropolis, and presumably opens it. This is a map to that." Clutched in his fist was a roll of tired looking parchment.

"So ... it's a map to ... another map?"

"Ya," Pops beamed.

"Bones and Blood, Pops!" Fafnir swore. "Put it back. They've already lost one of their party, they might lose a second and if Tess thinks you're out to rob them ..."

"Hey, you were the one that said they would be interesting to follow," Pops said defensively. He slipped the parchment into a belt pouch.

"Your map to another map isn't the reason," Fafnir explained and then had a sudden thought. "You aren't just making all this up as an excuse to cover the fact you robbed him blind are you?"

"No! I mean, I'd never ... I mean, No! This is all I took. Once I saw the symbols in the thing, I figured you were a sure thing." The conspiratorial tone and smile crept back over him. "You like symbols," Pops finished with a grin and an earnest twinkle in his eye.

"Come on Fafnir," he cajoled. "How long has it been since you've had a paying job? The council doesn't trust you. The Watch ... watches you."

"The council doesn't trust battle wizards. They are concerned because I am not moving on to some nebulous 'front line'." Fafnir frowned at Pops and said, "The Watch watches me because they don't trust you. At all."

"Hey!"

"You are gaining a reputation. And making a name for yourself."

"Oh really?" Pops switched instantly from wounded to curious.

"The smiling swindler."

"What?" Pops cried. "That is a terrible name!"

"What do you expect? Merchants, on the Turn of all places, are complaining ..."

"No," Pops interrupted. "I mean, that name lacks flair. It lacks class."

"So, it's dead on then," Fafnir said with a chuckle.

"Hey!"

"I am just saying ... the powers that be in this city want me to move on and the merchants guild is pushing the Watch to find a way to contain you."

"It's not like I run the black market," Pops said.

"For lack of trying?"

Pops waved a hand in Fafnir's direction while the other tried another drawer at the desk. "Guilds are too much work. I am doing fine bartering."

"Stealing."

"Bartering ... with merchants ... here and there. Besides, with you around it isn't like they are going to hire someone to do something about it."

"I am not so sure about that ... tonight was odd." Fafnir softened his tone and looked thoughtful.

"How so?" Pops asked.

"That crew was operating far too close to a border everyone knows about. And the Cateris ... lurking around just watching ..." Fafnir frowned.

"I don't see what a pack of curious cat-folk has to do with our merchant problem."

"Your merchant problem," Fafnir corrected him. "Think of it this way: if someone hired that bunch to move in at a place where no one should be dumb enough to be found operating, how long is it until someone gets hired to do something lethal that is also in the best interests of everyone except you and I?"

"They could have been out of town employers. Or Thieves Guild themselves," Pops reasoned.

"Wasn't Guild. They were rabble and the Guild would have let the group move all the way in to their web, not jump them fifty feet from the door."

"Out of town, then?" Pops asked.

"Maybe." Fafnir grunted still thinking.

"Either way," Pops said with a smile. "It means they had something and I say it is this map." Pops patted the small satchel at his hip.

Fafnir sighed. "How soon are they going to notice it missing?" he asked.

"Not sure," Pops replied. "I pulled a swap with a spare bit of parchment I had lying around."

"Ok. Let's assume morning then. I need to rest."

Pops looked around the room taking in the heavy drapes and tapestries. "Is this enough to muffle your screaming?" he asked gently.

Fafnir sighed again. "It should be. I didn't use much power tonight."

"Are the nightmares ever going to stop?" Pops asked with true concern in his voice.

"No, Pops. That's the way it goes sometimes when you tackle demons. You know it as well as I do." Fafnir looked away. "Go, Pops. Try not to start a riot with the remainder of the night. I need to sleep."

"Good night, then." Pops let himself out and headed down the hall to his own room.

 

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Geek - Gamer - Librarian - Writer. Only awesome at one of those things at a time, unfortunately.

About Fading Interest

After writing op-eds and travelogues for several years, after finishing a few books, and after failing to get the ball rolling with project after project I stumbled into an idea that might just hold my interest long enough to enjoy some level of satisfaction with my writing.