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      “How may I help you?”
      “I’m here to speak with Kraal.”
      “And your name?”
      “You’re joking. Please tell me you’re joking, Seleth.”
      “I’ll tell him you’re here, Ms. Hellstalker.”
      The tall woman sighed and leaned against the wall, waiting for the receptionist to return. She’d been here
hundreds of times, and the service had never gotten any better.
      When Seleth finally returned, she was accompanied by a burly gray-haired man, whose clean and trim
appearance did little to hide his somewhat less civilized nature.
      “What do you want now, Hellstalker?”
      “Nice to see you, too, Kraal. Why don’t we go talk in your office?”
      “Fine,” the man sighed in feigned exasperation, “Let’s.”
      The two then walked through the building, past rows of desks and cells, until finally coming to a door in the
back, which they proceeded to enter.
      “Now,” Kraal said, closing the door behind him, “What do you want, Hellstalker?”
      “What do you think?”
      Kraal raised his eyebrow.
      “Information, Kraal. I need information.”
      “Of course you do. You always do. Why should I be giving it to you?”
      “Because we have a deal. You give me the knowledge I need, and I do your job for you.”
      “Charging an arm and a leg.”
      “That’s because I’m the best there is.”
      “Perhaps.”
      “This job has made you diplomatic, Kraal. I don’t think I’d ever have expected that. Why, I remember when
you were just some young mercenary in from the barren plains looking for work.”
      “And I remember when you were the most skilled member of the guard, Alice. You could have been chief.
And then you left.”
      “This city never would have made a ‘demon’ chief of the guard. Think about it. Besides, I like my job better,
now. It gives me a lot of freedom I just didn’t have in the guard. But we’ve been through this a hundred times,
Kraal. The conversation is getting old. Besides, you seem to be doing the chief job more than adequately.”
      “You taught me well.”
      “That I did. Now, about the information I require.”
      “Yes?”
      “Priest of Mendak, named Terev. Dead. What do you know?”
      “I think I had Freaggar working on that. Kid straight out of Byvers. More than enthusiastic enough, but not
too bright, if you ask me. He couldn’t find anything.”
      “He keep notes?”
      “Of course.”
      “You have them?”
      “Yes.”
      “They legible?”
      “Mostly. I imagine you’d like a copy of them?”
      “A copy? What, did you make the poor kid take notes in triplicate?”
      “No, we just got this new... thing in from Inlarzol. Gnomish crafted, of course. It makes exact duplicates of
documents. I still can’t get the damn thing to work, but Seleth seems to have figured it out.”
      “Oh, gods, do I really have to speak with her?”
      “She’s not that bad.”
      “Whatever. Let’s get this over with.”



      The device was the most absurd thing Alice had ever seen. As near as she could tell, the eye-shaped object
on the end of a stalk examined the paper placed on the right side of the tray, and the quill in the odd mechanical
hand duplicated it onto the blank paper on the left of the tray. Other parts of the machine, she could not even
guess at the function of.
      Watching the thing in action was a very unique experience. Seleth placed the papers on the tray, and the
thing sprung into action, whirring and clicking, spouting smoke from several openings, and writing furiously.
Within five minutes, the five pages of Freaggar’s notes on the case had been duplicated perfectly.
      “Thank you,” Alice choked, having inhaled far too much of the machine’s emissions. Seleth simply nodded,
having already learned that trying to speak near the copying device to be a bad idea.



      “It is not safe to breath around anything that comes from Inlarzol.”
      “I imagine you got the copy, then?”
      “And barely escaped with my life.”
      “Oh, please. Can you die?”
      “Don’t know. I imagine I’ll get around to finding out about it eventually.”
      “I’m sure you will. I don’t think you’ll have a positive answer. Look at you. Still the same as when I met you,
and now I’m an old man.”
      “I’m fairly old myself. Older than you.”
      “But you don’t look it.”
      “Thanks.”
      “So, is there anything else you’ll be needing?”
      “No thanks. The notes and the compliments will be quite enough, I think.”
      “Well, you know what to do if you require anything else.”
      “Of course I do. I’ve been doing this for a long time, Kraal.”
      “Yes... Well, goodbye, then.”
      “Goodbye. I’ll keep in touch.”
      “I’m sure you will.”

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All text 8 2004
R.