“I take it the tournament is still taking up all of the priests capable of opening a lock using a key?” Sylver asked, as Sophia hurriedly put her bracelets back on to stop Sylver’s skin from blistering. He came out of the rain gutters and reformed a few feet away from her.
“Why not just fly through the sky?” Sophia asked with a raised eyebrow.
Sylver tapped the bars beneath him with his foot as he spoke, “It’s faster. And I don’t like being in the open while like that, feels like being naked in a sense,” Sylver explained.
“But crawling naked through a bunch of pipes is fine?” Sophia asked with a smirk.
“Naked might have been the wrong word. Vulnerable, I guess. Unarmored,” Sylver corrected.
“I’ve never seen you wear anything other than your black robe and cloak, you’re always unarmored,” Sophia said.
“It’s a figure of speech, was there something you wanted?” Sylver asked. He didn’t like the feeling he was getting from Sophia.
“Have you thought about what I’ve said?” Sophia asked.
“You’ll need to be specific.”
“The unhealing perk you have. And what you want in exchange for it,” Sophia explained.
“Oh, that… I’m fairly certain I said I was unwilling to explain how it works, and I even went above and beyond and told you that even if I were to tell you, no one but me would be capable of doing anything about it,” Sylver explained, as he turned around to face the gates and felt Sophia walk closer.
“A person is staying with us that would be willing to pay anything you asked if you could at least alleviate the effects. Could you at least take a look at them?” Sophia whispered. She leaned in close enough, that Sylver could feel her warm breath on the tip of his ear.
“Define anything,” Sylver asked slowly.
“They are… let’s call it well connected. And if you were able to cure them, there would be very few things that they would be unwilling to give you. You’ll need to ask the specifics from them, but this could be huge for you,” Sophia said.
“I see… And I take it you’re going through so much trouble to organize this meeting out of the goodness of your heart?” Sylver asked with a faint grin that Sophia couldn’t see since his back was turned to her.
“In a sense… I would consider this a personal favor if you were to at least take a look,” Sophia said.
“How personal?” Sylver asked, a little too quickly than he had intended.
“As personal as you would like it to be,” Sophia half-whispered. She rolled her words in a way that emphasized the faint trace of her foreign accent.
Sylver quietly stared at the gate in front of him, as Sophia reached over his head and removed the lock with a single tap of her finger.
“I’ll think about it… Is there anything specific about them that makes you think their curse and the one I used on Samuel are similar?” Sylver asked. It certainly wouldn’t hurt to be on the good side of the head priest of one of the largest religions on this side of the continent.
“Their hands have been crushed, and the way the remaining pieces are always filled with pus and constantly bleeding is almost identical to Samuel’s. And just like Samuel’s all the identification magic we have available wasn’t able to pin down a specific skill or perk. They were brutally beaten before the curse was applied on them, and the wounds have remained as if the beating had occurred an hour ago,” Sophia explained.
If there’s another person out there who has a similar level of mastery over dark magic, this could be a great opportunity to find them. Although, if they are smart enough to cast something like that, they’re likely smart enough to remove all traces of their magic…
But I might get lucky… Worst case scenario I’ll confirm there’s someone as good as me out there…
“Tell them to come to Ron’s rest tomorrow morning. I’ll look them over after this,” Sylver said. He tried to take a step forward, but Sophia’s hand on his shoulder stopped him.
“They can’t travel, and time is somewhat of the essence. It would be good if you were to see them right now,” Sophia urged, the smallest hint of panic in her voice.
“Because you want to know as soon as possible if something can be done, or because you’re worried I’ll die in there?” Sylver asked. The gate was open, all he needed to do was take another step forward and Sophia wouldn’t be able to follow him.
“Because I have plans that are heavily reliant on their help, and the sooner I know if I will have it or not, the sooner I can start working on carrying my plans out or changing them,” Sophia said.
Sylver thought it over.
“It would be impolite to the phantoms if I showed up late,” Sylver said. He interrupted Sophia before she could say anything, “but if you’re willing to throw in a second personal favor, I would be willing to leave right now to have a look at your mystery person,” Sylver said.
“Done,” Sophia said before Sylver had even finished speaking.
“Staying with us” turned out to mean, “staying in the most expensive inn in Arda, while being guarded by two teams of A-rank adventurers and 2 of Sophia’s personal guards”.
As a precaution, Sylver kept his mask on as Sophia led him towards the room, and was careful not to use his real voice at any point.
Which was a lucky thing, considering the mysterious victim placed heavy emphasis on anonymity and secrecy. Sylver wasn’t disarmed, but the guards’ relaxed attitude made it crystal clear that all his daggers and darts wouldn’t make a difference if they were to fight.
Sylver was glad for his mask because it hid the giant uncontrollable grin on his face as the elevator reached the top floor and Sylver could smell the mysterious victim in the other room. The curtains were closed tightly enough that only a single magic lamp provided any light. The room smelt of piss, shit, blood, and there was a general feeling of decay in the air.
A single guard remained inside the room, Sophia and her lot waited downstairs, while Sylver inspected the barely alive man.
He looked old, but that wasn’t the right way to describe him. Drained, if Sylver had to put a word to it. Tortured. From his missing left ear to his swollen blinded eyes, to his tightly wrapped up jaw, down to the bubbles of pus the man called hands.
Sylver silently moved his hands towards the old-looking man and had to suppress a giggle.
“I can feel you shaking child. Don’t worry, it isn’t infectious, it just appears that way,” the old man said.
Sylver had to apply magic onto his muscles to stop himself from bursting out laughing. He adjusted the magic around his mask to alter his voice and slightly over-pronounced his words to hide his accent.
“I’ve never seen anything like this sir. But I believe I can be of help, at the very least I think I’ll be able to undo some of it,” Sylver said, careful so as not to sound too confident, but not too unconfident. It was a hard line to toe.
When the man grabbed Sylver’s hands, he flinched so hard he nearly yanked the old man out of his bed. For a split second Sylver’s heart beat uncontrollably fast in his chest, but Sylver relaxed as he felt the old man’s lumps of flesh lose strength. If his soul was anything to go by, he hadn’t realized who Sylver was.
“Name your price child,” the old man said. If not for his gruff tone, it almost sounded like he was weeping as he spoke.
“I’ll need to bring my tools to make sure first sir. It would be improper if I were to get your hopes up by promising something I’m unable to deliver. I’ll return tomorrow morning; would you kindly wait until then?” Sylver offered.
Sylver could see the old man wanted to demand he treat him here and now. He could imagine him weighing the cost of threatening the only person that could help him, against spending several more hours sitting around in constant pain.
“Of course, of course… I’ll wait, I’ll wait… I’ll be here, but please come as soon as you can,” the old man said.
Sylver placed his hand onto the old man’s shoulder and ever so gently squeezed it.
“Don’t worry sir, I’ll do everything in my power,” Sylver said.
Sylver turned into smoke and started to laugh to his heart’s content. An outside observer would have seen yellow lightning crackling around the edges of the sputtering black smoke, but Sylver was alone and unobserved for the movement. When he calmed down slightly and reformed, he had to spend several minutes wiping tears out of his eyes.
Spring wordlessly handed Sylver a page of paper to write on and went about buying an envelope while Sylver got the attention of one of Wuss’s cats. He walked off into a secluded alleyway and waited.
Spring returned with the sealed letter a moment before two cats appeared out of nowhere and sat down onto a windowsill. Both of them had dark brown coats and blue and green eyes. Sylver looked at the one on the left, with the green eyes, as he spoke.
“I need a letter delivered to Novva, duke of Pere’s territories, and I need it done urgently,” Sylver said, as he held out the sealed up letter towards the green-eyed cat.
“How urgent?” The green cat asked. It nodded slightly with its head, and the letter disappeared from Sylver’s hand.
“How much will the fastest method you have cost?” Sylver asked.
“9,000 gold, it isn’t negotiable,” the cat said instantly.
“Done, but this needs to be in his hands before the end of the day,” Sylver continued.
The two cats looked at each other before the blue-eyed one spoke.
“It will be there in about 2 hours,” the blue-eyed cat said.
“Fantastic. Alright, good, get to it, thank you,” Sylver said. He waited until he turned the corner before he turned into smoke again and disappeared.
“So you can heal him?” Sophia asked as Sylver struggled to keep the childlike joy out of his voice. Thankfully he could tell Sophia thought it was because Sylver had hit the metaphorical jackpot.
“What do you want from him? Specifically,” Sylver asked. Sophia’s voice lost a fraction of warmth as her face became a bit more neutral than it was a moment ago.
“It’s private,” Sophia answered.
“I’ll put it like this… There’s a good chance he will die during my attempt to heal him. I would like to know how badly you’re going to be fucked over if that happens, so I can value what I’ll try and what I won’t. Is it binary, you only get what you want if he’s fully healed, or are you getting paid for the attempt and don’t care how things end up? You said he would be grateful for partial healing, how partial?” Sylver asked.
Sophia walked in dead silence alongside him.
“Your bluntness was refreshing originally, but I’m starting to be weary of it,” Sophia said with a small grimace.
“I’m aware, but if I don’t have an answer, you don’t get to complain if something happens and you end up worse for it as a result. Look… I’m not expecting you to trust me with the internal workings of your temple and people, I’m just asking what you hope to get from this because I might be able to help,” Sylver offered.
Since the temple of Ra already knew about him, it was a matter of time before the summer solstice came along and the other temple’s spies knew about him, and the other temples knew about him, and the rest of the world eventually knew about him.
Sylver didn’t know how many people knew about Kitty and her curse but considered it unlikely the ones that mattered didn’t know.
Sylver didn’t say anything as they arrived at the Anderey residence’s gates, and Sofia opened the gates again.
“It’s complicated,” Sophia said.
“Dumb it down for me then. Money? Connections? An item? What does that old man have that you want, keep it simple,” Sylver said, as he turned around to face the uncharacteristically quiet Sophia.
Sofia looked down at the ground and rubbed her foot into it as she mulled things over.
“Listen… These kinds of situations can sometimes turn into misunderstandings and conflict. I would like to avoid all of that, by talking things out. If all you need is money, I know people. But then again, Kitty probably knows the people I know, so it must not be that. Same for political power, meaning there’s something extremely specific that that old man has,” Sylver said. He knew he hit the nail on the head when Sophia twitched at the words.
He had hoped for an answer or at least something, but she instead just silently teleported away.
Sylver walked around the mansion before heading inside. The build quality was impressive, rock reinforced with metal, and some sort of strange treated wood that felt as hard as rock to the touch. The corners were all rounded, almost a complete opposite of the general architecture present in Arda, and the roof’s shape made the building look like a collection of cylindrical towers, as opposed to one single building.
Sylver sent shades out through the mansion as he walked inside. There were no illusions this time round, no living armor, or anything. It even appeared to have been cleaned up slightly.
“You said 3 to 10 years,” a voice said from seemingly nowhere. Sylver tried the locked door again and found it open. He walked inside what looked to be a guest bedroom and slowly inspected the room.
“It’s an estimate. How capable you two are plays a big role in how quickly I can bring you back to life. This is like trying to split a mixed-up pile of black and white sand into two separate piles, it’s slow and careful work, and there’s very little I can do to help you with it. It’s entirely on you, I’m just giving you the tools to do it,” Sylver explained.
A woman he hadn’t seen before appeared sitting on the bed dressed in a dark grey robe. Sylver recognized her, somewhat, given that he’d worked with enough decayed corpses to be able to guess what the living version would have looked like. It helped that she was clutching a ring of keys in one hand.
“Then what happens? The piles are separated, what happens after that?” the woman asked.
“Before that. Please allow me to introduce myself. I am called Sylver Sezari, necromancer, and adventurer extraordinaire,” Sylver said. He bowed slightly towards the blank-faced woman.
She nodded with her head the smallest amount. The silence lingered.
“Masha,” the woman, Masha, said.
“It is very nice to meet you, Masha. I have a method to repair dead bodies, and within 2 months both your and the other girl’s body will be in perfect condition. I can even change them to suit your needs, I’ve recently had some practice with that, and I’m a lot more confident in my abilities,” Sylver explained. He adjusted a slightly crooked painting and continued to walk around and check for damages. The number of rat corpses was staggering.
“Misha,” Masha corrected.
“Misha and Masha. Sisters?” Sylver asked.
“We don’t have to talk about what happened here. I can’t change the past, I can only change the present and future, as can anyone else. Whatever happened, happened, it is too late to do anything about it,” Sylver said. He tugged at the drapes covering the window and slid them out of the way. It was dark inside the barrier, even with the sun at nearly full height. Sylver noticed that Masha was see-through with the extra light interfering.
“Why couldn’t we hurt you? At all, nothing worked, even the armor was useless,” Masha asked.
“A mixture of things. Your magic is what my people call conditional magic. Certain conditions must be met for it to function properly, and I made it so I wouldn’t at any point meet those conditions. There are ways to get around it, which I will show you if you agree to my deal,” Sylver explained. He opened the closet and rummaged through the various suits neatly placed inside. They were both too thin and too long for him.
“So in exchange for this house and service, you’re going to pay us, bring us back to life, and then send us both on our merry way when we’re done and want to leave?” Masha asked. It was surprising how little life her voice had after all the acting fake Sophia had done.
“Yes. I could threaten you into working for me, but I find that most people can be reasoned with. I understand you couldn’t control what you were doing when I first came in here, so I’m not going to hold that against you. And the other people you killed… truth be told I don’t much care about them. They knew the risk when they stepped inside, it wasn’t like they just stumbled in here unaware,” Sylver said.
“There were a few in the beginning. Right after we died, they-”
“Shit happens. I’m not going to pretend I can absolve you of your past, but what I can offer you is a future. A bright one. With money, good food, good drink, friends, fun, husbands, children, family, and all I want in return is a small amount of your time. In 3 years I will have something better and more permanent set up, you and Misha are temporary,” Sylver explained.
“Why? Why go through all this trouble?”
“I have a hard time sleeping when I don’t feel safe, and I would feel safe if two talented phantoms were standing guard over me. There are also… things I want to do that I wouldn’t feel right doing in a place that wasn’t my home. Secrecy is a big part of the deal, anything you see or hear while working for me, stays a secret, no matter the cost,” Sylver answered.
Sylver spent the next several hours being questioned about his motives and reminisced about a simpler time in the past when people took him at his word when he said he was going to do something and trusted him.
“I want to hire you to do this, this, and this for me, in exchange for this,” Sylver would say.
“Sounds great, when can I start?” the person being negotiated with would say in response.
It took a while but Sylver managed to convince the two phantoms to work with him. Masha did most of the talking, but Sylver asked Misha directly just to be safe.
In the end, he finally had a place to call his own. All that was left was cleaning up the mess downstairs and setting everything up.