Miscalibrated Internet Receptor Stalks
Miscalibrated Internet Receptor Stalks
Illustration for article titled Once upon a time...

It was a dark and stormy night, the lightning was walking across the hills and the thunder was rolling down into the town, even hidden in the laundry closet we could hear the wind fighting with the rooftops. That we were hiding in the laundry closet had nothing to do with the storm, nor did we require fresh linen.

"why are we hiding in the laundry closet?" I asked finally, rearranging some sheets to form a more comfortable seat.

"Because the guards are quite zealous and efficient at protecting the duke and his family, but rather ambivalent towards bedding and towels." He replied, eyes closed and reclining on a pile of tablecloths as if being caught hiding in the Duke's laundry closet was not a hanging offense. "And in about half an hour they vacate the Duke's quarters and take up station at the main door."

"How can you be sure?" I had noticed that his attitude of all-knowing was usually a facade, a mask that crumbled at the most inconveniently deadly of times. He opened an eye and raised an eyebrow.

"Because while you spent most of last night trying to find a prostitute without physical defects, I spent it tumbling the chambermaid." I hoped he could not see my face redden in the dim illumination of the conjured light he danced across the backs of his fingers.

"Do you mind if I ask you a few questions?" It was rare to catch him relaxed and sober, for once he was not wearing his bother-me-and-you-die-messily face and I decided to take advantage.

"Not at all, the worst that could happen is that I tell the truth." I saw him concentrate and tense his hand, the light flickered and assumed a green glow, I wondered if this was the intended effect.

"Are the rumours true?" I sat up straighter

"Well, the Queen does come from a line of witches, but transforming yourself into a seven-breasted, six-armed sex maniac seems a little far-fetched to me. Damn, that should have been blue." He reclosed his eye and the light returned to sickly yellow.

"I mean about you." I shook my head, slowly.

"There are rumours about me? Do tell." He propped himself up on one elbow, and opened his eyes again.

"You were thrown out of the University for summoning a succubus and copulating with her in the Dean's private study." I had heard this, but never found a reliable source.

"I was thrown out for non-payment of fees. It was the Dean's wife in the study, but that was unrelated." With a flick of his fingers he sent the light to hang in the middle of the room.

"You speak seven languages fluently." I had been told this by a mutual friend as we shopped in the grand bazaar, he had seemed able to converse with merchants from every corner of the map.

"I speak one language, not always fluently, but I can order beer in eight and swear coherently in fourteen. For everything else there are hand signals." He demonstrated what could only be taken as a come-on in any of the seventeen kingdoms.

"You killed your mother and used her as fertiliser." A warning from a colleague.

"I looked after my mother's garden when she was recovering from the grey pox last year." A slight look of puzzlement.

"You broke into a wizard's tower just to steal a lump of cheese." An oft-repeated tavern anecdote on his reputation for getting into trouble for no reason.

"I just happen to like cheese." A shrug.

"Lord Ashen has a price on your head after you despoiled his wife." Common knowledge.

"Lord Ashen has a price on my head after I drew a mustache on a portrait of his wife." A small chuckle, "The artist had missed it off."

"You are half-demon on your mother's side." The one fact most agreed on.

"My mother is a saint." A protest. "We are not so sure about my father, though, I could be part troll."

"You own the only pornographic version of the Liber Malificus." Something everyone wanted to find out the truth of.

"I wish." A smirk.

"You set fire to the robes of the King's archmage using nothing but the power of your mind to prove who was the greater magician." I had heard this enough times for it to be true.

"I set fire to the robes of the King's archmage using nothing but the power of a candle because he was being an arse." Another shrug.

"You are secret a member of the Knights of the Pure Heart and act as a special envoy of their vizier." A couple of his acquaintances had impressed this knowledge upon me.

"I don't think I even started that one, that's just ridiculous." He shook his head in bewilderment.

"So, why do they call you Pitchblende?" This was something I had always wanted to ask, no two people had told me the same story on this.

"Because, just like the mineral, I contain very little of worth, and if you spend too long in my company you end up dying a painful and protracted death." He blew at the light causing it to flare up momentarily.

"Oh." I thought for a couple of seconds. "Why, exactly, are we breaking into the Duke's private quarters?"

"Because he has a fantastic collection of spirits and liquors." He smiled.

"We could have just gone down the pub." I said with resignation, once again involved in some pointless caper.

"Its a question of perception." He clapped his hands and the light vanished.

"How so?"

"You see a mousetrap, I see free cheese and a challenge."

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