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Dexter and the Curse of Otanten.

Dexter's fondest memory of his childhood was from when he was 12 and he got to watch his brother lose the only major battle Amber has ever lost in all of recorded history.

The opposing General didn't live to relish his historic status though as he fell to friendly fire during the battle. It was the only thing that kept the battle from being a total disaster.

Dexter is a bit odd.

Sir Alaister Gorton and his retinue entered a dusky bar in the great city of Memphis. "You know, Conrad," he said to his secretary, "the people of Memphis refer to their city as Menfe, hu hu." Conrad had learned to interpret the hu hus as indicative that he should find something that Sir Alaister had said amusing, so he did.

"Quite amusing, sir, ha ha, Menfe you say?" Conrad looked around the bar. They would be engaged shortly in what he considered a risky endeavor, and it would do them good to get a local to help them. Conrad hated going on expeditions with Sir Alaister. He had a singular ability to see only what he wanted to see and ignore the local reality.

Conrad spotted a dark man, who looked like an Aiguptian, but much bigger and more muscular than any of the natives they had seen so far. Conrad got a table for Sir Alaister and his men and then headed to the bar to place their order, making sure to stop by the Aiguptian. He bumped into him.

"Watch yourself, boggart," spat the Aiguptian in just barely accented Thari. Conrad shrank back from him.

"A thousand pardons, your grace, I am but a clumsy manservant." Conrad palmed some gold.

"You should watch where you're going."

"Indeed, sir. I fear I was preoccupied as my master has ordered me to find a trustworthy servant. One who knows the land around here and who isn't too proud to take my master's meager gold." Conrad flashes the gold.

The Aiguptian, who offered the name "Sinister" when prompted, returned to the camp.

Sir Alaister had managed to purchase permission to conduct an archaeological study of the village next to the great Necropolis. Toward that end, he had set up an archaeological camp just outside the village. Secretly, he was planning on conducting his study of the great pyramid of Otanten, mightiest of Pharaohs and the only one in all the Golden Circle able to claim that he had defeated Amber on the field of battle.

Sir Alaister was a Memphologist, and had made the study of Otanten his life's work. Otanten had been a mysterious figure. By all accounts, he was much taller and fairer than any of the other Pharaohs, and although all Pharaohs were reputed to have divine powers, the stories about Otanten dwarfed all of his relatives combined. In addition, there were many stories put forth by various different ethnic groups that Otanten was not the son of the previous Pharaoh, Akhenaton, but rather secretly a member of their tribe. It was sheer luck that the kind stranger had shown up in Sir Alaister's home shadow of Angle and offered up such a large grant to fund archaeological research on Otanten. Sir Alaister's fortune would be made from the results of this trip.

Sir Alaister looked up to see the imposing figure of the local his boy had hired. He had been sent into the Necropolis to scout out locations. "Yes, what is it?"

"I have found it."

Sir Alaister looked up, "What? You have found the quadrant we can find Otanten's tomb in already?"

"No, I--"

"I thought not. The Necropolis is much too large for--"

The local seemed to grow even more imposing. "I have found the tomb itself."

They set up a new camp just outside the pyramid. Of all the locals, only the big, scary one was willing to follow them into the tomb, so they would stay and guard the camp while the Angles penetrated the tomb. Conrad made sure they had everything they would need, packing numerous torches and pints of oil as well as door spikes and a ten foot long pole. He unpacked Sir Alaister's whip and pith helmet. The local carried a machete.

Conrad surveyed the small group. In addition to himself and Sir Alaister, there were a dozen Angles of varying education and military prowess. Each was armed with a lantern, a walking stick, and a light crossbow. They would be ready to enter the tomb as soon as Percy was done with the oil painting commemorating the opening of the tomb. The big local, Sinister, was standing near the entrance looking at the cartoonish images the Memphans were so found of and moving his lips.

Conrad walked over and asked, "What is it? Anything important?"

Sinister just looked over at him, shook his head, and walked off to sharpen his machete.

The party waited through the oil painting, the tedious breaking of the seal (which involved hours of labor clearing out blocks of stone that had been filling the entryway), and the obligatory oil painting of Sir Alaister breaking the seal by the sweat of his own brow. Sinister seemed upset about something, or perhaps just anxious, but he seemed to cheer up once they actually entered the tomb.

The tomb turned out to be a labyrinth. There were numerous passages, rooms, and dead ends. They lost four men to a dropping block of stone that sealed off one tunnel, another man to scorpion stings who was a bit too quick to reach into a pile of gold, and three more who had been sent to follow a side passage and simply never returned. So there were just four of Sir Alaister's Angle mercenaries by the time they found the false floor beneath the sculpture of a Sphinx rending a Unicorn.

Sinister dropped down the dark hole first, carrying a torch in one hand and his trusty machete in the other. From above, all they could see was his torch flying out of his hand off to his right and Dexter swinging about to the left.

The mercenaries started offering to help each other down the hole, and generally stalling for time while the sounds of a fight went on underneath. Sir Alaister drew his whip and started practicing swinging it, getting a satisfying cracking sound about once every twelve swings. Meanwhile, Conrad stuffed a handkerchief into one of the flasks of oil and lit it. He tossed it down the hole.

The flask hit the ground and spread its flame. In the flickering glow, they saw a large, bandage wrapped figure bearing some sort of pole arm and a golden helmet in the shape of an eagle's head bearing down on Sinister. Conrad dropped down into the room.

He immediately wished he hadn't. It turned out there were four of these things fighting with Sinister, and four more littering the floor of the small chamber. Conrad wished he were back in Angle and let out a muttered wish for his mother. He pulled out the wand he had purchased in the market and spoke the command word. "Shock-ra!" A burst of lightning leapt from the wand to the nearest eagle headed warrior.

The warrior turned to face him, sparks leaping about all over its mask, the beak of which parted and emitted a terrible squeak which froze Conrad in his place. The warrior lifted his polearm and started to bring it down to stab Conrad in the heart when he was tackled from behind. Sinister drove the warrior into the ground and wrestled its helmet off. With a wet shucking noise, the helmet came off to reveal a dried out eagle head, which gasped and fell silent.

Conrad's shoulder had been slashed and he thought he was going to die. He especially thought he was done for when he saw the last of the warriors coming up on Sinister from behind, but there was a loud crack of a whip grazing the warrior, and it turned to face the mercenaries finally joining the fray. Two men died while Sinister tended to Conrad's wound. Conrad was ecstatic to hear the dour native's brusque comment, "You'll be fine."

While Sir Alaister beamed about all of the Archaeological import of their situation, Conrad found what appeared to be some sort of door in the wall he was leaning up against. It had some odd inscription on it, and an outline of a hand which looked like it was about the same size as Conrad's hand. Empirical evidence showed that it was actually a bit larger. The stone slab then slid out of the way.

Before anyone else could look, Conrad saw visions of sand and colors, blues, reds, purples, more reds, and felt a wind rush past him and a sharp bite on his toe.

The group turned to look and saw an image of Otanten standing over Conrad, who was slumped on the floor. The image passed away without even a maniacal laugh. Sinister rushed to check on Conrad while Sir Alaister headed into the chamber beyond the door.

"I've found it! I'll be rich!" exclaimed Sir Alaister.

Sir Alaister spent a week in Memphis studying his finds. He concentrated on deciohering the many scrolls that had been buried with Otanten, while Conrad spent most of his time resting or attempting to appraise the jewelry of Otanten. The two surviving mercenaries, Wadsworth and Tibbins, spent their time in a local bar, as did Sinister.

Wadsworth was the first to die, and perhaps they should have suspected something was amiss. It is difficult, though, to assign supernatural causes to a man being found dead after spending the night with a married woman. Even when you find his intestines wrapped around his body and his brain pulled out of his left nostril.

The death of Tibbins was the telling death. Tibbins had been staying away from the local women since Wadsworth's death, and had taken to drinking tonic water. He avoided confrontations and kept mostly to himself. He had, after all, lost eleven of his close friends and associates over the last week, and he was determined to be as safe as possible.

Thus, when Tibbins ran into Sir Alaister's tent belching a black, oily smoke and desperately scratching at his back, they realized that something was up. Pushing his shirt off with the 10' pole, Sir Alaister and Conrad discovered what looked to be a thousand or so scorpion larvae crawling over Tibbins' back, stinging merrily. Upon further inspection, following Tibbins' death, they discovered thousands of pockmarks all over his back, probably indicating where the larvae had sprung from.

Sir Alaister sent Conrad into town to find information. He was thus alone when Sinister came calling. Sir Alaister briefed Sinister on what had happened so far.

Conrad ran into Sinister on his way back to the camp.

"Ah, Sinister," began Conrad, "I've been looking for you. Apparently there was a horrible curse on the Tomb of Otanten. He was apparently a powerful god and has dispatched his vengeance against us from the land of the dead. I'm afraid it's hopeless." Conrad looked at Sinister sympathetically. "I'm just now heading over to Sir Alaister to break the news to him." Conrad patted Sinister on the shoulder in a comforting manner.

"I understand," said Sinister, "I think."

Conrad stepped into Sir Alaister's tent. There was but one candle burning and Sir Alaister was hunched over some papers.

"You are a fool and a bumbling incompetent, 'Sir' Alaister, but you are a rich man and command great resources." Conrad seemed to grow a half a foot as he swelled with power, "I shall make great use of those resources as I build up my armies again and strike at that bitch, Amber, and her half-demon sons." He started to reach for Sir Alaister, who dropped into a fetal ball on the ground.

Sinister leapt at Conrad out of the darkness, driving him into the ground. Sinister's fists blurred as he shattered Conrad's ribcage. For all his speed, though, he barely had time to snap Conrad's neck before he was thrown across the tent, landing in a heap. Conrad rose to his feet, head flapping around loosely, and drew energy from the earth, creating roiling globes of swirling energy about his fists. "You too are a fool, young one. I would have let you live for another week at least, out of loyalty to my people, but now you will die the most horrible death, as I create--" He was cut short by "Sinister," who by now had dropped his disguise in an effort to save energy, tackling him.

Conrad brought his hands together on Dexter's temples and sent waves of pain and distortion through his head.

Somehow Dexter managed to fight through the searing pain, and ripped Conrad's head off. Conrad's body fell lifeless at his feet. Dexter slumped to the ground, exhausted and spent. Conrad's head rolled to a stop, facing Dexter. Its mouth fell open. A bolt of lightning shot across the tent, flipping Dexter over in convulsions.

"You are a powerful man, bastard of Amber," said the spirit of Otanten from the lips of the dead Angle. "But you and your ilk are no match for my line. I shall keep you alive, paralyzed as you are, that you may watch me destroy your Amber and eat the heart of its so-called King." Otanten rolled his head over to Sir Alaister's slumped form. "With this one's power, I shall reclaim my throne. Amber will fall soon thereafter, and I shall feast upon your liver in the aftermath." A burst of blackness rocked the head and Sir Alaister's body. Conrad's head rolled to a stop at last.

Sir Alaister rose up and looked Dexter in the eye. "Now you have seen the face of your doom." Dexter just smiled at him and slowly, excruciatingly managed to pull a vial out of his pocket. Sir Alaister looked at it quizzically, then snatched it out of Dexter's hand. He read the label, then turned to Dexter and said, simply, "No, you didn't, you couldn't have..." But he realized that Dexter had. Already Sir Alaister's body was growing stiff. Otanten could animate a corpse, but it weakened him. He was already weak from animating Conrad in his battle with Dexter, and he didn't have the strength to fight the transformation that was coming over Sir Alaister's newly dead body. "You have won then, bastard of Amber, but I curse you now, in this place, with my dying breath."

Dexter looked back at him, unable to move thanks to the lightning bolt. He wasn't too worried about Otanten's curse. Any magical effect should disappear once he was back in Amber. It was only the death curse of family members that was worth worrying about.

They stared at each other for a day and a half. Dexter then cracked his neck and back and stood up. He resolved not to fight any more magicians in their home shadows. At least, not in a fair fight.

He headed back to the comfortable confines of Arden, glad to be done with Otanten. No one else had ever put any stock in the stories of Otanten returnign from the dead to harass Amber, but Dexter knew some trustworthy Aiguptians, and he knew that Otanten had been a powerful sorcerer in Memphis. He could probably even come back from what Dexter had done to him, at least he might be able to if Dexter had left him in Memphis. Fortunately, his magics didn't work in Amber, so there was little chance that Dexter had anything to worry about from his new statue.