It had happened so fast. One moment Klinner was asleep in his bed, and the next he was surrounded by imperial soldiers, the tips of swords and rifles pointed at him. His eyes had stung upon exiting the crypt, meeting fresh air and natural light they hadn’t encountered for months, and they were still hurting when he was shoved into a dark room. Before his eyes could adjust to yet another change in the lightning, the room was illuminated, and he was forced into a chair at one end of a table. On the other end stood two imperial soldiers, dressed in lavender brigandine coats.
“What were you doing in the crypt!” demanded one, making a fist with one hand, her other resting on the hilt of her sword.
“Necromancy,” replied Klinner.
The soldier stood dead still, before quickly motioning for her companion to leave.
“That confession was faster than I expected. Go get the captain, tell her we have a warlock on our hands.”
The other soldier ran out of the room as Klinner put his hands up in defiance.
“I am not a warlock!” he shouted, pointing an accusing finger at the soldier. “I am but a magician, who only wants to bring laughter and joy to the masses.”
The soldier took a seat at the other side of the table, not breaking eye contact with Klinner as she did so.
“What do you mean.”
Klinner smiled, seemingly thinking himself in the clear.
“For years now, I’ve been developing what I think is a quite good idea for a magic show. Now, I’ve always found the one man show to be an interesting format, but I’ve been thinking, what if you took the one man show, and put in more performers?”
The soldier gave a quizzical look.
“That doesn’t make any sense.”
Klinner got excited, slightly bouncing in his chair.
“But it does! Because the other performers aren’t really there! Corpses controlled by magic! It’s like a one man show with a one man effects crew!”
“But we found reanimated skeletons guarding the crypt you were in.”
“Well of course they were just skeletons. Corpses with the skin still on them are just gross.”
The soldier’s brow furrowed. “That wasn’t the point.”
Klinner smiled and rolled his eyes. “Ohhhhhh, the guard part was the problem. They weren’t actually guards, and they shouldn’t have attacked you. Did they?”
The soldier thought for a moment. “I, guess not.”
“Those were just my performers. My little hovel in the crypt isn’t very big, so I keep them stashed away outside when I’m not using them.”
The soldier thought for a moment before responding.
“Necromancy is still a crime, and you will still need to be held accountable by an international panel.”
“Oh please!” spat Klinner, truly indignant for the first time. “One lich kills hundreds of thousands of people a few centuries ago, and suddenly necromancy is a big deal. Frankly, it’s ridiculous that the Empire considers necromancy a crime!”
“It’s illegal in both the Empire and the Ithragran Republic!”
Klinner pointed at her confidently. “But it’s not illegal in Bag.”
“We’re not in Bag. And you desecrated the dead.”
“Look, I intentionally picked a crypt that hadn’t been used for centuries, so no one would have even noticed. Plus, they’re already dead. And I know if I died, I’d want my remains to be used in a magic show. Wouldn’t you?”
Klinner made a tsk noise and looked away. He was about to lose hope on talking his way out of this when tiny footsteps entered the room.
“Blargle!” he exclaimed as he swung around. At the doorway was a small, furry creature, with a tiny round nose and big eyes.
“How’d you get in here!” exclaimed the soldier.
“I’m tiny, no one saw me,” replied the hobgoblin curtly. He removed a sack he had slung over his shoulder and handed it to Klinner.
“I found the thing you had lost. I was going to give it back to you at the crypt, but you were not there anymore.”
“Thank you Blargle,” replied Klinner as he hefted the sack to the table. He then turned to the soldier.
“Please ma’am, if you’d be so kind, allow me to demonstrate just part of the act I’ve been working on.”
“I don’t think that’s. . .”
Before she had finished, Klinner had already taken from the bag a skeletal arm. It was attached to a skull with its roof caved in. He stood it on the table skull first, and the arm straightened up by itself.
“Now, this part of the show happens immediately after the big opening act. I walk up to the stage and go. . .”
Klinner coughed, clearing his throat.
“That was great guys, but I think I could use a helping hand with the rest of the show.”
At those words the arm became animated.
“Look everybody, it’s my assistant Armony! Can we all give a hand for Armony?”
The soldier looked on, dumbstruck, as Klinner pretended to wait for applause to die down.
“How about a high five Armony!”
The severed arm high fived Klinner.
The arm stretched up to meet him.
The arm once again moved to meet him, but Klinner withdrew from it.
The skeletal arm poked him in the eyes.
“Ow! Shit! You aren’t actually supposed to. . .”
Klinner, red eyed, stopped himself and looked at the soldier.
“Anyway, that’s how it would go.”
The room was dead silent as the imperial soldier tried to comprehend what had just happened. Klinner tapped the table in front of him.
“Soooooo, what did you think of it?”
“I hate it.”