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Night Out in Glantri - Part IV

by Kit Navarro

The Bastet was the most popular club in the City of Canals-and with good reason.

The motif of the place was ancient Nithian. Walls were adorned with bas-relief profiles of animal headed Immortals. Columns, obelisks, and palm fronds accentuated the furniture whose ends bore heads of jackals, lions, and cats. Golden sarcophagi served as portals to the inner chamber, leading to and from the foyer, the toilette, and private rooms, for guests; and to the kitchen and offices, for the staff. The staff themselves were dressed in costume: the women as Nithian dancing girls, the men as pharaohs, and others (undead servants?) as mummies, wrapped in with authentic-looking bandages.

The middle of the chamber had a ghostly image of a Nithian pyramid. It glowed with a multitude of colours while chromatic orbs of light danced around, giving the inner chamber a dizzying atmosphere. Inside the phantasmal pyramid, danced the patrons of the club, to the entrancing music which emanated from an unseen source. The music itself was mysterious and exotic, and seemed to excite primal and ancient urges, not altogether unfamiliar to the cultured and civilised Glantrians.

Sean McAllister found himself stepping out of a sarcophagus when he entered the inner chamber from the foyer. (Teleportation magic was at work, no doubt!) Though the eyes of his falcon mask, Sean scanned the crowd of the Bastet, half in shadow, half in scintillating lights.

The animal-head masks provided much anonymity to the guests of the Bastet. The swirling shadows and prismatic lights were no help either. At best, Sean could only point out the Belcadizian patrons-shorter than most others-from the constantly changing menagerie.

Sean did recognise one woman in the masquerade-the scandalous Doa Carmina de Belcadiz-laying seductively poised on a jackal-headed divan. She wore no mask, but was dressed as some Nithian queen, complete with a cobra headdress and eyes painted with kohl. Sean found her wanton displays distasteful, but his attentions were drawn to the hulking leonine hunk in her attendance. With a powerful, hirsute hand, he was feeding her grapes from a bunch in a most suggestive manner. His lion mask was all too authentic.

Sean's attentions were drawn to another couple, newly entered through a mummy case across the chamber. One was dressed as a hippopotamus, the other, a baboon; both were bungling their way through the graceful crowd. It would have taken a fool as big as them to have not identified them at first glance.

Sean decided to spare them of future embarrassment, and marched his way towards them.

"Goibban! Orkajin!" Sean commanded through his falcon-head mask.

"Sean? Is that you?" asked the hippopotamus-man.

"Who else do you think it is?" scolded the baboon-man, slapping his partner at the back of the head, tilting the mask out of place. All at once, the hippopotamus-man was bumbling about blindly, tripping over a statue of a sphinx and knocking down an alabaster vase.

"Rad's ass! You Rad-forsaken clumsy dolt you!" cursed Goibban through his baboon mask.

Sean, maintaining his composure, called over a staff member dressed as a mummy. Placing a couple of fake gold ducats into a bandaged hand, Sean signalled to the servant to clean up the mess quickly and discreetly. Sean also noticed the smell of rotting flesh on the all-too-real mummy servant.

Goibban, not wanting to get involved with his blundering cousin, sneaked over to Sean. Before he could denounce that Orkajin was only his half-cousin and of a lesser concubine of a half-brother of his father, Sean pressed him urgently, "Have you seen Patric?"

"Wh-what?" Goibban babbled, suddenly taken by the feeblemindedness that ran in the blood that he and Orkajin shared.

"Patric? Have you seen him?"

"H-how could... They're all masked... I thought he was with..."

"He went with the stranger," Sean impressed on Goibban, realising his own rising apprehensions.

"You mean, Lord Minotaur?"

"Yes, the man in the bull mask. They went ahead inside. I haven't seen them."

"How could you? They're all wearing masks." Goibban said matter-of-factly, as if what he said was a profound discovery of cosmic truth.

"Goibban! Listen to me!" Sean argued impatiently. "Something's wrong! I think Patric is in danger!"

Goibban's mood suddenly changed. Sean could almost see through the baboon mask that Goibban made a know-it-all expression on his face.

"Are you jealous, Sean McAllister?" Goibban challenged teasingly but with much impertinence.

Sean slapped him so hard that the baboon mask flew off his face and across the room, to be lost somewhere on the dance floor in the phantasmal pyramid. Goibban's face was crimson, with embarrassment more than anything-the papier-mch had absorbed most of the impact. But his singed, frizzy hair standing on end told that Sean employed some magic behind that slap. Goibban was, simply and accurately, shocked.

"Now listen to me, and listen well!" Sean commanded imperiously, as befits a true heir of the Marquis of Dunvegan and the Prince of Klantyre. "Patric is in danger! We must find him. He is wearing a black jackal-head mask!"

Orkajin with his mask off had just lumbered along and pointed towards the centre of the phantasmal pyramid, "You mean like that?"

The thick, stubby finger of the slow-witted Krondaharan accurately pointed to a youthful figure, wearing a black velvet jackal mask, dancing closely with a taller debonair man, wearing a golden bull mask with ruby eyes. The two were in a tight, sensual embrace and their bodies were writhing seductively and rhythmically to the hypnotic tune of Nithian music.

Sean burst forth towards the dance floor, heedless of the low tables and chairs he was toppling over, and the guests he was stepping on.

"Patric!" Sean shouted out, his voice a mixture of warning and welling concern.

Patric had not responded to Sean's call, but the golden bull mask turned towards Sean. From where he stood, Sean could swear the ruby eyes shone blood red.

All at once, the stranger in the bull mask swept Patric up across the floor, towards the nearest sarcophagus-shaped portal. The young man was not an unwilling companion, but Sean could tell his actions were not of his own volition.

Sean pursued, but he knew he would not get to the mummy case in time. He reached into his pouch of spell components and began uttering the only spell he thought would be helpful in this situation. Never before had he hoped so much for his quick casting to work. Sean gripped the iron nail that was the focus of his sorcery, and he instinctively sensed the magic reach out towards his target.

Lord Minotaur, Sean's first target, resisted the spell, opened the sarcophagus door and stepped in. But as he turned his golden bull-head, he realised that jackal-headed Patric, Sean's second target, was frozen in his tracks, mere steps away from the sarcophagus.

Sean surged through the dancing crowd, thankful for the moments he gained with his spell, but that wasn't enough. The bull-man merely stepped out of the sarcophagus and, with phenomenal strength, picked up the youth in his arms. He stepped back into the sarcophagus, carrying Patric like a babe, and disappeared.

Sean reached the mummy case portal just seconds too late-but the door had not been shut. Inside, Sean could see the faint glow of teleportation magic still at work.