The Captives of the Lost City of Alhassar
By Dwayne MacInnes
I froze momentarily as I noticed in the dark two flaming red orbs rising from the box I held in my hand. I do not need to tell you that freezing in horror like this can be very unhealthy for a thief. I completely forgot to finish my spell and could only stare in fascination as the two orbs rose up to the level of my eyes.
"Sorry, I didn't realize you were female. Well, in any case I can't thank you enough for finally freeing me from that beastly chest," the voice said.
I slowly realized that the red orbs were the "thing's" eyes and it was now looking at me face to face. I still had a hard time regaining my composure and the first words out of my mouth were not to summon my dark sight spell, but instead a simple, "Who are you?"
"Why I guess you could say I am nobody," the thing said and then began to laugh.
The laughter put me enough at ease that my mind finally relaxed and I was able to function. Before the voice finished its laughing, I summoned the dark sight spell again.
There standing in front of me, or more accurately floating, was a disembodied skull.
"Get it? Nobody, because I have no body," the skull explained.
"Yeah, I get it," I replied dryly. "How did you end up as...?" I trailed off, for I could not figure out how exactly to phrase my question.
"As a disembodied floating skull that has two flaming red orbs in its eye sockets and can talk?" the skull finished. "Well, I wasn't always in this state. I used to be an apprentice to a mighty mage. Being ambitious, one day I found a tome hidden by my master.
"I asked myself, ‘Mobius, (for that is my real name) what arcane knowledge does this book contain?'
"I knew that if I could find some secret spell that would allow me to attain greatness in a hurry my boring internship would be at an end. So, I opened the book and began to read.
"The words were captivating. But, not in the usual sense. They literally capture my mind and I could not stop reading. The words tumbled out of my mouth and an enchantment began to build. First, I noticed that my skin began to dissolve. I did not feel any pain for my entire focus was on the words that I could not tear myself away from speaking aloud.
"Then my legs disappeared, yet I did not drop to the ground. I kept on speaking and I tried to force myself away from the book. It was not long after that my torso and then my arms vanished. Yet the book did not drop. Finally, in a last desperate attempt, I ushered up every ounce of willpower and I tore my eyes away from the book.
"So here I am a floating skull because I was able to quit while I was a head," the skull started laughing again. "Get it? A head, because I am a head."
"Yeah, I get it," I replied dryly. "That isn't what really happened was it?"
"Well, no. I used to be a jester and I pissed off a wizard," Mobius replied.
"And the chest?" I queried further.
"He figured he would use me as a bookend. I can tell you that being a bookend is rather dull, so I used to tell jokes to amuse myself. I guess he did not have much of a sense of humor for he boxed me up and dropped me down a privy," Mobius said. "Imagine dropping me down the toilet like that and in a box that only he had the key to. How rude!
"Thank the Gods you were able to open the lock. I can't tell you how long I've been down here. I also can't tell you how many people have tried to open the box and failed.
"So in gratitude I, Mobius, King of the jesters and jester to the king is at your service."
"I believe I've heard someone else use that line before," I said.
"Stole it from me I'm sure."
I soon started my travels down the corridor again with a floating skull now following me. The one advantage of a floating skull is that they generally do not make noise. Well, I guess the average floating skull does not. I really do not know how many floating skulls there are but I can only assume that not all of them chatter incessantly as Mobius does.
It took me quite some time to press upon Mobius to be silent before I returned him to the box. I guess that did it because Mobius just hovered there for a moment with his mandible agape before he finally clapped it shut with an audible click.
Soon, we again encountered torches lighting the corridor. I took advantage of every shadow and obstacle as I made my way down the hall. I probably would have been less conspicuous if I did not have this floating skull hovering over me everywhere I went.
Fortunately, we did not encounter anything, not even a giant rat. Eventually, we found a stout wooden door set into the side of the hallway. The door boasted a barred window that usually spoke to the fact it guarded a gaol or dungeon. As quickly as I did with the box containing Mobius, I had the lock on the door picked.
I swung it open slowly and started to creep in when I suddenly stopped.
"Ah, you know Mobius, we need a rear guard here. Do you think you can handle it?" I inquired.
"Not a problem, mate. I'll keep my eyes peeled," again the skull started to laugh. "Get it? Peeled, because my eyes have no lids and are peeled."
"Yeah, I get it," I replied dryly. "Just keep it down so no one can hear you and warn me if you see or hear anything coming this way."
"Right-o. Cheers," Mobius replied as I started down the hall.
I did not have far to go before I came upon a large room lined with cells. The first few cells contained a person stripped down to her undergarments. It was curious that there was no guard on duty. Nonetheless, I crept up to the first cell containing a female orc wearing only a dirty shift.
Thank the Gods for that, because no one should ever see an orc in anything less than a shift. Well, unless it is another orc I suppose.
I peered around the bars and studied the orc for a while. She was sitting on the edge of a wooden cot stuffed with filthy straw. Her mottled green head was in her hands as she grumbled below her breath.
"Psst," I hissed to get her attention. The orc's head shot up and stared at me in surprise.
"By the blood of Uranus!" she exclaimed.
"What?!" I replied in surprise.
"Huh?" she replied in turn, "You do not know of Uranus the god of the sky?"
"Oh," I said, as I finally understood what she said. "Sorry, thought you meant something else.
"I'm here to save you and your party."
The orc ran over to the bars in excitement, "That is wonderful. With my group and yours we should be able to defeat the vampires who have taken up residence down here."
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