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Thirteen The tavern explodes.

Varanim Varanim, who had plans for finding both booze and information therein, stops short outside and scowls. "Oh, what NOW?" she says, dodging a falling beam with abnormal economy of motion.

Thirteen walks calmly out of the debris, glowing and looking around irritatedly.

Thirteen "Excuse me. Are you somehow associated with the criminal organizations of Netheos?"

Varanim leans on her staff and fixes Thirteen with a beady eye. In rumpled and travel-stained clothes and with one arm wrapped in bandages, she is occasionally mistaken for a bum, but her sense of entitlement soars with the angels. "Oh, sure," she says. "Me and the underthugs, we're like this." She holds up two crossed fingers to demonstrate.

Varanim "More interestingly, why did you blow up my beer?"

Thirteen "Obviously, I was looking for the underthugs."

Thirteen "On the assumption that you were being sarcastic, I will be on my way now."

Varanim "Funny story, I WAS looking for a dead sneak I used to know, but he's not very helpful as a fine plasm mist. Do your eyes shoot deathly fires, or are you just confusing 'looking' with 'exploding'? They're sort of spelled the same, I guess."

Thirteen "The patrons of this establishment were not receptive to my requests for information. There are probably several survivors. I did not concern myself with exactitude." He helpfully levers a large piece of debris aside, revealing a moaning spectator.

Varanim "I can only wonder that they didn't fall for your boyish charm immediately." Her eyes narrow slightly. "Why were you looking for dead shifty types?"

Thirteen "I need the Lapis Lion."

Thirteen "I have been reliably informed that it can be found among the less reputable figures in Netheos."

Varanim "Who told you that? Most people wouldn't know reliable if it came home drunk after promising to change this time."

Thirteen "I would."

Thirteen "Do you, perhaps, have a more specific suggestion as to where I might locate it?"

Varanim "Hm." Varanim starts to look more than vaguely interested in the conversation. "Was it, by any chance, grave goods for an overrated dead guy, since mysteriously lost?"

Thirteen "Since that description applies to everything valuable in the Underworld, I feel it safe to say it might well have been."

Varanim "Only if you stick to consulting idiots about what's valuable. Did your reliable source tell you the Lion was part of a set?"

Thirteen pauses. "No."

Thirteen "How would that be relevant?"

Varanim "Using the same principle that makes ugly porcelain dogs come in pairs, one might expect to find the Lapis Lion and the Lazuli Tiger flanking the same hideous vase on a mantel."

Thirteen "Would the average undead ne'er-do-well be aware of this?"

Varanim "Did you actually just say ne'er-do-well?"

Thirteen "What is your alternate theory?"

Varanim "My alternate theory involves finding the Tiger immediately, maybe under the nearest smoking rubble heap, and finishing the whole business in time for a bottle and a half before bed. It's looking increasingly unlikely."

Varanim regards Thirteen with some annoyance, as if suspecting his part in the no-fun-for-Varanim conspiracy.

Varanim (scratch those two)

Varanim "In a happy world, a grown man wouldn't use language that would make an adventure novelist blush, so my alternate theory involves some kind of clog in my ear."

Thirteen "This is not a happy world."

Thirteen "For example, everyone is dead."

Thirteen "For another, I fail to see how the information you provided me improves my situation. You have merely added another topic for ghosts to deny knowing anything about before attacking me."

Varanim "Don't be a corpse bigot; dead people are WAY fun. And I can only hope I've helped you as much as you blowing up the tavern helped me. No," she says, seized by a generous impulse, "TWICE as much."

Thirteen "I assure you that I will ascertain whether any of the thugs I grapple with next are expecting a homeless woman with an injured arm before destroying them."

Varanim "That's a dear lad. Do I need to hurry my own snooping, or are you maybe going to branch into non rubble-based investigation methods? I hear there are people doing exciting things with bribes, these days."

Thirteen "How do you intend to find the Lazuli Tiger?"

Varanim "It's a complicated plan, but it pretty much boils down to talking to filthy liars until I'm tired of it, then cheating."

Thirteen "I have already accomplished the first half of that scheme. Perhaps we might proceed to the second."

Varanim considers the prospect. "It might take less time that way. But no recruiting for your mystical overlords, and let me finish my drink order before you practice your exactitude."

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