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Thirteen ANOTHER tavern explodes.

Varanim "Yes, very consistent. Would you like a lolly?" Varanim dusts herself off, though from the previous state of her clothes it's not clear why she bothers.

Thirteen "These spirits are not as helpful as you were suggesting they might be."

Thirteen "I had expected more effective diplomacy from you."

Varanim "Funny, until a moment ago you didn't SOUND like an idiot."

Varanim Then she considers. "I could make a long-distance call and get a better local name, maybe."

Thirteen "Forgive me for projecting my competence onto you. It is an error I am known to make."

Thirteen "Do so."

Varanim "If you could project your competence on to me, we'd be somewhere in the lower halls of the Labyrinth by now, putting up wanted posters for our lost kitties and wondering why our limbs were all rotted off." Then she ducks into a nearby rubble nook to whistle up Black Mastodon and ask him for any local useful descendants.

Thirteen rolls his eyes, then takes a moment to marvel at the utility of that gesture.

Varanim ducks out again after a little while, cracking her knuckles. "Next crappy podunk dead-town over. There's a group of thieves there who actually doesn't suck. Possibly, they have sturdier buildings, but my info on that isn't definite."

Thirteen "Hopefully it will not be necessary to find out."

Thirteen "Well?" He gestures in front of him.

Varanim "Whoever taught you the language swapped some key words, like 'necessary' and... hm, what's the word for something lazy people do when thinking is too hard?" Varanim sets off for the next town.

Thirteen "Criticize foolishly?"

Thirteen follows behind, idly fingering his spear.

Varanim leads the way to the Netheos corpse of a mining town, a sprawl of rough workers' houses around an industrial center. Rather than heading for the center of town, she slants aside into the outskirts of the hills, where there are several mining tunnels in various states of disrepair. "Alas, my source didn't use the words 'you can't miss it'."

Thirteen "I am sure we will find it with a minimum of investigation."

Thirteen walks into the nearest tunnel.

Varanim follows, minding the lance point. A shortish distance down, around a bend, some unclever fellow tries to jump Thirteen.

Thirteen pitches him at Varanim, considers, grabs a foot as it flies past him and throws him the other way instead.

Thirteen "Excuse me."

Varanim The ghost hits a wall, bounces with a noise that would be slightly wacky if it didn't leave a small plasm smear, and lands with a groan. Varanim steps lightly over and squats down beside him. "Are you by any chance Long Winter Qi?" He makes a muffled noise, and Varanim nods. "Good. Your sister-in-law said that you would never amount to anything and that she wouldn't be surprised if you...

Varanim ...were still here."

Varanim She beams up at Thirteen. "Isn't he a cute little thief? Try the asking thing, with fewer cave-ins please."

Thirteen "Where is the Lapis Lion? Please be advised that being thrown into a cave wall is the highest level of politesse you may reasonably expect from me."

Varanim Long Winter Qi lacks the polish of a professional cringer, but after a brief moment to consider he makes a good sincerity-based effort. "We don't have it any more!"

Thirteen "Shall I assume you are aware that that does not answer my question?"

Varanim The ghost looks like he's trying to navigate his way through that sentence, which Varanim helpfully translates, "He's about to start hitting you again." Qi waves his hands frantically to stall for time, as he visibly calculates the odds of calling for help being useful.

Varanim "We sold it, I mean," he says. "For LOTS of money." Then he looks like he regrets saying that.

Thirteen sighs, and reaches down to pick Qi up.

Varanim "You don't understand," Qi says, trying to scooch back. "He'll KILL me."

Thirteen "There are many reasons he might not kill you. There is only one reason I might not."

Varanim "That means--" Varanim starts, then Qi snaps at her, "I GET it!" She smirks beatifically as he looks nervously back at Thirteen and answers. "Some shadowy guy--I KNOW, we get a lot of them down here--real spooky. Called himself the Obscured One."

Thirteen "I appreciate your desire to make polite conversation before your immolation for failure to respond to my rather clearly delineated request. Perhaps, for my entertainment, you might explain what you believe the word 'where' means before I destroy you."

Varanim "Oh," says Varanim with mild interest, "you two went to the same grammar school." Qi says, "I don't KNOW where he took it, but the guys said he was in from some fleaspeck Inland Sea town."

Thirteen glances at Varanim. "What information would assist you in locating this town?"

Varanim narrows her eyes at the ghost. "Spooky how?" she prods Qi, who looks uncomfortable. "You know," he says, "like part of him was missing inside." Varanim looks thoughtful at this nonspecific answer, then adds, "Tell me exactly what he looked like."

Varanim After Long Winter Qi obliges in some fashion that will be detailed later, she shrugs up at Thirteen. "I can probably find it, or at least get us lost in the right general area."

Thirteen "Let us go, then."

Thirteen turns around and starts heading out of the cave. Halfway there, he notices he's still carrying Qi and drops him carelessly.

Varanim "Your sister-in-law says to reconsider your life choices, except you can't anymore," Varanim says to Qi as she passes him on the way out.

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