"The sorcerer's abode is just down this street," the woman said, leading Priest and Thongor out of the tavern and into the streets of Sharrazar the Naughty, one of the most dangerous cities in the Hibernation Age.
"It's a tower, isn't it?" Thongor said.
The ebon tressed woman said, "Why yes, you can see it there beyond the city square. However did you know?"
Thongor's gaze shifted from the wench's shapely backside to a narrow edifice of stone that thrust up against the night sky, blotting out the stars. He said, "Sorcerer's have a thing about towers. I think it's Freudian or something."
"Um...yes," the woman said. "My name is Etheria by the way. My sister Bunny and I came to the city looking for work to support our aged and unwell parents. We had planned to be shop apprentices or the like, but we ended up working as exotic dancers down at the Willing Mermaid."
"How did you get mixed up with Zolthang?" Thongor said, hoping to move the exposition along.
"Oh he was one of Bunny's regulars. Came in every Saturday night. Seemed nice enough for a trafficker in the dark arts. Gave Bunny some nice tips, let me tell you. But apparently he'd decided it was time to take their relationship beyond the lap dance stage. Tonight he turned all the bouncers into salamanders and carried Bunny off to his tower."
Priest said, "Salamanders?"
"Yes, they were really icky," said Etheria.
"Psst, Thongor," whispered Priest, "I don't want to end up a salamander."
Thongor said, "Don't worry. The spiders will probably eat you before Zolthang can turn you into anything unnatural."
"Dude, you are obsessed with spiders."
"I'm a barbarian. It's what I do."
They made their way through the winding streets to the base of Zolthang's tower. Thongor whistled as he gazed up at the sheer walls of the structure. He looked thoughtful for a moment, then turning to Etheria he said, "You know, I was just thinking. You said you were at the Willing Mermaid when Zolthang snatched your sister. That place is usually crawling with barbarian heroes. Blazing blue eyes. Square cut black manes. The whole nine yards. I mean guys that would be frothing at the mouth to attack a sorcerer in his tower. Why didn't you enlist one of those guys to save your sister?"
Etheria's slender white hand went to a glowing green pendant that was nestled charmingly in her cleavage. She turned the pendant slowly, so that the emerald light played across Thongor and Priest.
"Why, all of them were frightened away when they saw the bouncers transformed into salamanders," said Etheria.
"Of course," said Thongor. "Who wouldn't be?"
"These aren't the droids we're looking for," said Priest.
"Now," said Etheria, "Shouldn't we be trying to get into the tower and save my poor sister? I think the entrance is around on the other side."
Thongor shook himself as if waking from a deep sleep. "Right! Let's get to the rescuing!"
"And to the rewarding!" added Priest.