The Case of the Merciful Illusionist (Part III)
Our new friend eyed us suspiciously over a cup of coffee. “You know,” Tarella said as he looked slowly around the palace welcome area, “you could have said you were working for the sultan in some capacity.”
Jeremy smiled, “We are his guests, not employees.”
“Affiliated then is a better word.”
“You didn’t give us much of a chance,” my master retorted, “before running out of there like a flumph on fire.”
“Flumphs on fire explode,” he said casually as he drank more coffee, “Besides, how many times is the pale necromancer in Hollowfaustian garb, there to just chat?”
Jeremy shook his head, “Racist.”
“I beg…what…Are you serious?”
“Not at all. You’re absolutely right…but in this case, we are indeed only here to talk to you and ask your help with a matter of the utmost importance.”
For the first time in the conversation he looked at me, but still addressed my master. His eyes narrowed in suspicion, “And your…tear your larynx out happy friend?”
He finished his coffee, “Not a rousing endorsement.” He looked thoughtful for a moment. “You will forgive me but recent events have me less trusting than usual: And, sadly, occupied. Too occupied I would say to even entertain the basics of your proposition until it is settled.”
He was good. If this was someone who could help our friends with Taren then he could surely handle whatever mess he was in at the moment. So he was asking us to handle it for him without asking. And he was going to assess us doing it as a kind of test. And I was starting to think that he made that decision the moment my master came into his tent; which meant he was very close to Jeremy’s level on perceiving things.
He noticed me looking at him intently as he waited for one of us to ask or offer assistance. “Problem?” He asked.
I nodded. “We are emissaries of the Sovereign Council of Hollowfaust. We have carried messages on behalf of the royalty of Geoff. The people who seek your aid are trying to stop Asmodeus from tearing apart an eight year old boy and wearing him like a cloak. They are also trying to stop the nightmare god from driving this world into darkness and preventing the mad god from escaping his prison. And they need your help. We will help you with whatever challenging but insignificant problem you have but do not think for a second we are going to be tested like school children. Both my master and I have been tested in a place far more challenging in order to speak for Hollowfaust. So we will help you, then you will come with us. Agreed?”
He looked at my master. “Do all unfailing speak as if they are in charge of the situation?”
Jeremy shrugged, “Only those who keep their necromancers alive. Besides, he’s right. You are obviously good at what you do. So much that we were told to seek you out for aid in the circumstances he describes. So it is unlikely you need our help. Granted, we could help you finish it all more quickly or in a more direct manner; but you do not, in fact, need us.”
He smiled broadly. “Well this is by far the most enjoyable conversation I have had in many months.” He nodded excitedly, “I do not in fact need your help. But I would not turn it down just from a stand point of pure logistics. I maintain a constant concern here in the markets. But lately many people, including myself, have been visited by people who want to interfere in that. They want benefits from little or no work on their part and they are very good at getting them.”
“Extortion?” I said.
“Exactly,” he responded, “Men have threatened me with bodily harm if I do not essentially give them the lion’s share of my profits. I really could care less, but the key is dealing with them in a way that frees the other innocents as well without getting them harmed. There are 120 in the syndicate of the Golden Sunset…and they are not to be ignored or underestimated.”
“Or dealt with legally?” Jeremy questioned.
“There are complications there. They have people in some of the higher ranking noble families and the authorities are not keen on getting themselves in the middle of that.”
My master nodded. “Well then, the course of action is obvious. We now have a necromancer of impressive skill, a warrior of exceptional value and a cunning illusionist and mage. That is more than enough to find the head of the syndicate and end this by going right to the top."
Quentin nodded slowly, “It is possible. With the assets you list we could do it.” He thought for a moment more and said: “Infiltrate.”
I nodded and added, “Overwhelm.”
My master smiled and happily said, “Intimidate.”
We both looked at him. It had been a squeaky sound like a morning songbird hitting an awkward high note too soon in the song. A bright smile lit up his face and he looked like he would be hard pressed to intimidate a rabbit with a nervous condition and a bladder problem.
He waved his hand in a dismissive and effeminate manner that did not grow our confidence. “I can be very menacing when I want,” he said, “After all, I am a pale necromancer from Hollowfaust. That goes a long way with the slow and racist.”
Quentin dropped his head into his hands. “I am not racist.”
“No,” Jeremy said, “but you do have the location of the syndicate head. And we really don’t have loads of time. As Frederik mentioned earlier…the world is kind of ending.”