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Night Out in Glantri - Part III

by Kit Navarro

The foyer of the Bastet was shadowed in half-light. Its stone walls and false columns were engraved with hieroglyphics. An enchantment to silence the noise from the outside and dampen the sounds from the inside of the club created the atmosphere that the guests were inside a Nithian tomb or necropolis.

The gentleman in the golden bull mask walked confidently towards an out of sight stairway. He has obviously been to the Bastet before. After a few steps, he turned to the young wizards, the ruby eyes of his mask faintly glowing, and with that charming voice beckoned them, "Come. This way."

Sean was at once apprehensive. But Patric seemed utterly enthralled by the mysterious stranger and promptly obeyed. Sean had no choice but to follow.

The darkened stairway lead to a landing. Against both walls stood four statues of the cat-headed Immortal poised serenely on a Nithian throne. In between two of these statues was a booth, manned by a woman wearing a similar cat mask. On the wall behind her hung a dozen or so masks of falcons, jackals, lions, crocodiles, baboons, ibises, and other creatures of Nithian myth.

"Bonsoir, monsieur!" the cat-lady greeted. "Voulez-vous des masques?"

"Bonsoir, mademoiselle!" the bull-man replied with an impeccable Sylaire accent. He turned to his two young companions and, from out of nowhere, produced a mask of a jackal head.

"Bon, I already have a spare one here," he said, waving the black velvet mask in front of Patric, like a Sindhi snake charmer would to hypnotise a cobra. Patric, entranced, took the mask and put it on his head. Its eyes of green emeralds glowed with a light of its own.

The gentleman in the bull mask turned to Sean, then to the hostess behind the booth.

"My young friend here would be in need of one."

His voice was suave and smooth. Sean could not help but be aroused-and thrilled.

Sean was suddenly shaken out of his reverie (Did he just fall into a trance?) when the cat-lady thrust a falcon-headed mask towards him. It was made of papier-mâché and tinsel and sequins, but was more ornate than those of Patric's and their unknown sponsor. Sean reached into his pocket to pay for the mask (with wood chips enchanted to look like gold ducats, of course!), but the bull-headed gentleman stayed him.

"Non, mon bel ami, I insist."

Sean was in a daze as the amount was settled between the mask seller and the bull-man. All he could think of was how firm and yet soft-and chilling-the gentleman's grip was.

Like a rude awakening, the two bumbling Krondaharans bumped into Sean from in the semi-darkness.

"Where did you get that Rad-awful mask, Sean?" asked Goibban.

Sean could feel a mounting pain in his shoulder. He realised that the hulking Orkajin was grasping on to him tighter and tighter.

"Let me go, you fool! What are you doing, for Rad's sake!" Sean lashed out.

"Oh," Goibban replied for his less than brilliant cousin, "he just got spooked downstairs! He thought he heard a mummy or something."

Sean expected Orkajin to protest stupidly again, but the big dope appeared to be genuinely scared. Sean did manage to wrench his shoulder out of the Krondaharan's vice grip.

"Hey, Sean, where did, Patric and Lord Minotaur go?" asked Goibban, single-mindedly oblivious to anything going on.

Sean had to turn. Beyond the landing was another flight of stairs upward, leading to a doorway, which (Didn't he just see them?) lead to the inner chamber of the club. Music and the drone of voices emanated from the door.

Like walking in a dream, Sean had an image in his mind of Lord Minotaur leading jackal-headed Patric by the hand through that door-but it seemed like a distant memory rather than a recent recall of events he had just witnessed.

"I must go in," Sean said apprehensively and yet urgently, donning the falcon-head mask.

"Don't leave me here!" wailed Orkajin like a hapless baby.

"Come on you!" commanded Goibban, but they were stopped by the sultry cat-headed hostess, who had stepped out from behind their booth. Apparently, the unobservant youths had not seen her till then.

"Boys," she said, sounding both seductive and condescending, "You will need masks to enter the club."

In her hands, she already had two to offer them, one of a baboon, the other of a hippopotamus.

"Thank you, milady," Goibban said hurriedly.

"You must pay for them," the cat-lady reminded.

"How much?" Goibban asked, reaching for his purse.

"Twenty ducats."

"Twenty ducats?! Why that's..."


"What?!" protested Goibban. His purse only contained twenty-odd gold pieces, the rest were silver and copper.

Sheepishly, Orkajin said, "I won't have enough money to eat and go home if..."

"Sean," Goibban called out to his friend who was already at the top of the stairs.

Sean turned his falcon head and threw down his own purse (containing another twenty or so pieces of magically disguised tokens). He opened the doors to the inner chamber and entered.