Swamped

Swamped Chapter 148 Page 13

“Hang on, is that a tattoo on his cheek?” you ask.

Arlene turns his face a bit.

“Oh, yeah. I’ve seen one like this. Right down to the weird word,” she says.

“I’ve seen it, too. But I’m surprised to see it in this town.” You give Bert a glance. “You didn’t notice this?”

“The hallway we knocked him out in wasn’t too well lit,” Bert grumbles. “And then we’ve just been focused on carrying him up to now. I’m surprised you caught it, we’re still in pretty low light.”

“What can I say?” you shrug. “My eyes are sharper than yours.”

“Care to share what you know, then?” Arlene asks. “All I know is, Minnie and I found a fellow with a tattoo like this unconscious in the back room of a fishmonger’s.”

“It’s something of a movement, I suppose,” Bert says awkwardly. “A group that wants to re-establish the Kingdom of Theletia. Not likely to happen, seeing as a lot of people would have to give up their land, and there aren’t exactly enough of these Abluni guys to take it by force. That’s probably why they keep turning up involved in various illegal activities.”

“But this is a wizard,” you say, as you try to gather your thoughts. “What could gathering up a bunch of priests and putting a spell on them have to do with bringing back a dead kingdom?”

Funny, Arlene makes a weird little movement when you say that. Then again, she’s an odd person, so you can’t be sure it means anything.

You glance closer at the tattoo in hopes that it might clarify something. Then it strikes you.

“Wait, I don’t think this is a tattoo after all. I think it’s a brand.”

“So? What difference does that make?” Bert asks.

“Well, if you want to get a symbol on someone in a hurry, and they’re not cooperative, a brand’s a hell of a lot easier than a tattoo,” you reply. “I don’t know what it means, but it suggests that maybe this wizard got pressed into service somehow. Maybe the symbol’s magic or something.”

“Now hang on. I’m not saying that’s impossible, but if you’ve got a magic brand that can control a wizard, what do you need a theater full of priests for?” Bert asks. “Why can’t you just brand them, too?”

You just shrug in response.

“I don’t know. I’m not sure what the connection even is between all the things that we’ve seen tonight. Hells, there’s probably stuff we don’t even know about, like whatever got Arlene and her priest friend involved.” You glance at her. “Which you don’t have to share, mind. We’ve got plenty of problems of our own.”

Arlene seems to pause a bit before responding.

“Have you heard of the forgotten god?” she asks.

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