“So tell me why we’re really here, Ori? Did you come because of Klosterhiem, or what he’s doing here?”
The message, delivered over the mental link he and Rocky shared was distracting, and for a moment Orion did not answer. The cat padded his way through the mansions basement, ever alert for magical and physical traps. He cursed as he stepped too far forward, triggering a spring loaded scything blade. A back flip saved his neck, but lost him the edge of his jacket. The feline Magician examined the tear and smirked. “That was a nice suit. Klosterhiem will owe me.”
“What was that?” Rocky again.
“A minor annoyance.” Orion didn’t add that it would be more then an annoyance to anyone who wasn’t a cat. Being a raccoon, Rocky would have a good, if slightly lower chance of surviving the pitfalls of the Klosterhiem Mansion. In some small way Orion envied his friend. Both of them had been sneaking for years, and there were always fewer traps on the upper floors.
As Orion went along he rapped on the walls, both to check for traps, and for that special hollow echo that told him he was close.
TOCK! TOCK! There! Orion fished in his pocket for the jeweler’s glass. No use fumbling around and triggering something you shouldn’t. Fixing the lens to his eye, he silently began to recite the mantras, pneumonic devices Tobias had taught him years ago. Reality is illusion. Belief and will are all that matters. See the pattern beneath.
Through the glass, the dark basement could be seen clear as day, much more distinct then his inborn night vision. Most objects were in stark white, but there, off to the side, was a shade of grey. It was a hidden panel. Reaching his paw out carefully, he pressed it, ever so gently. The wall slid aside, revealing a stairway going down into darkness.
“I’ve found the subbasement”
“Good. The study’s as good as pilfered too.”
Orion and Rocky had different goals this night, which was why Orion had teleported them both onto separate floors.
“Shit.” The telepathic bond was briefly filled with impressions of a looming shadow, and a drawn pistol. Rocky answered his friend’s unspoken question. “There was a nightguant on the windowsill. I don’t know if it could see me but I’m not taking chances. Whatever you’re looking for down there Ori, find it fast.”
There was a single door at the bottom of the steps, unlocked. As he swung the door open, Orion staggered back as an absolutely hideous stench assailed his nostrils. The room beyond was pitch black. He should have been able to see just fine. A spell of darkness, perhaps? A few whispered words and fire was dancing in the center of Orion’s paw. When he saw what was in this room he almost regretted conjuring a light.
An arcane diagram was drawn on the floor. The runes within the circle were the kind any decent Magician tried not to think about. A table nearby was strewn with instruments of pain and death, knives, drills, peelers, and even worse things. And on the far wall…
Chained to the wall were four humans, or rather, three corpses and one ragged, starving man. The other three had been very thoroughly gutted, rotting in their chains.
“What a sad fate it is, used as spell fodder because no one will miss you.” The prisoner gave no sign of hearing, and Orion didn’t blame him.
“Find what you were looking for Ori?”
“Humans, four of them. One’s still alive. He’s in a pretty bad way though.”
There was an impression of more gunfire. “If you’re going to get him out, do it now. The ‘gaunts are nearly battering the windows down.”
Orion cursed. That meant the glamour had worn off. It was only a matter of time before HE showed up.
A twitch of the wrist and a whispered word was all it took to free the prisoner’s right arm. Before he could do the same for the left however Orion heard a sound like a playing card flipping over, the spatial distortion that heralded Teleportation.
“You have quite the nerve. Popping into my home and stealing my materials. Frankly I would expect nothing less from a cat.”
Orion turned around slowly. On top of everything else he had done, Albert Klosterheim had always annoyed him. That grey suit, that ramrod posture, paws behind his back like a disapproving schoolmaster. He was the very picture of the aristocratic Doberman. And he had the gall to spout the canine dogma of loyalty and responsibility when he tortured living beings in ways that were outlawed in every sane nation.
“Your friend has shot a great many of my servants.” Klosterheim went on. “I’d dearly love to make a cap of him and present it to you personally.”
Orion tensed. The infernalist held up a warning finger. “Ah ah ah. One syllable of the Tongue Arcane and I will turn you inside out.”
“It’s not the Tongue Arcane you have to watch out for.” Orion replied in Atlantian.
By coincidence, the Atlantian phrase “It’s not the Tongue Arcane you have to watch out for” and the curse “May the fur of my enemy be infested with vermin” had a difference of only one syllable, but could convey the same meaning if you pronounced it just the right way. As such, Albert Klosterheim could hardly turn anyone inside out as he tried frantically to scratch the horde of fleas and ticks that were now swarming all over him.
“It seems your flea dip is sub par Baron!” Orion laughed, releasing the prisoners other chain and catching him as he fell forward.
“You bastard!” Klosterheim cried. He was now fairly rolling on the floor, totally helpless.
Taking the unconscious human over his shoulders, Orion focused on his mental link with Rocky and bent every ounce of his will toward getting the hell out of there. There was the playing card sound, and then a falling sensation as all three of them were spirited away.
“You got his journal. I’m impressed.”
“So am I. You got yourself a naked ape.”
“I’d prefer it if you didn’t use that slur, at least not around him.”
Orion and Rocky had relocated to a rooftop a block away. From there they assessed the situation. The subject of their conversation was out cold, and showed no signs of waking. His clothing was near disintegrating, and the only other thing they had to cover him was Rocky’s trench coat, which they had given him as a blanket. Rocky was looking a bit haggard himself. The Nightguants had left him with a few claw marks, and his vest was missing a button.
The raccoon gave him a pitying look. “What are we gonna do with him? It looks like he hasn’t had any food and barely any water for days.”
“I’ll take him to Dr. Smythe. The old fox is the only one in town who knows their anatomy.” Orion replied, turning up the collar of his greatcoat.
“I doubt the vet will appreciate you teleporting onto his doorstep in the middle of the night with a beaten, starved Homo Sapiens, Ori.
Orion shrugged. “I have little choice. In the meantime get to work on that journal. I want to know what Klosterheim was using them for.”
The cat bent down and took the man’s hand in his. He centered himself, seeing his destination in his minds eye, thankful that Arts like these didn’t fatigue any passengers they brought along. For the third time that night, Orion disappeared, taking the freed prisoner with him.
Rocky was right. Dr. Smythe was not pleased. “Ser Orion. Do you know what time it is?” The light from the lantern he held threw the fox’s bright red fur and sour expression in sharp relief.
Orion got to the point. “If you won’t open your door for me, Christopher, open it for him.” The cat stepped aside, revealing the coat-bundled human.
The veterinarian’s jaw dropped. “Saint Francis alive! Get him inside quickly!”
As Dr. Smythe made his patient comfortable Orion explained the night’s events.
“Hmm. Malnourished, dehydrated, and rescued from an infernalists basement. It’s a miracle this fellow is still alive. You say the others had been tortured to death?”
Orion nodded. “The darker Arts often require pain and death to work.”
Dr. Smythe adjusted his reading glasses as he prepared a damp rag. “I know little of magic. Just be glad you got him to me in time. Curious though, to see humans this far west.”
“Indeed. I’ll be back to check on him later. I just had a thought.”
Dr. Smythe stood. Cat’s never “just had thoughts” “Hold on boy. You’re not going to go gallivanting across Kingsport are you?”
“Who knows Christopher? Who knows?” Orion strutted out the door, tail in the air.