“Alright,” Vithia said. “I think he was transmitting from our alternate base, just west of here. There’s a town on the way, we can rest.”
“And why should we trust you?” Krogg snarled.
“Wha- I know the Guild better than any of you!”
“All the more reason!”
“What other choice do you have?” She looked at Nin. “Nin! Back me up on this!”
The halfling looked down, away. “I thought we were friends,” she muttered, giving the downed robot a little kick with the toe of her boot. A burst of static from the TV screen in its chest before going dark again.
Vithia had nothing to say to that.
“I see no reason for her to lie about this, Krogg,” Rook whispered, taking him aside. “She wants Saito’s throat as much as we do.”
“For all we know, she’s still working for the bastard,” he said. “Could all be an act. We both know she’s not one to shy away from betrayal. Or blood on her hands, if the bounty on her head is any indication.”
“Says the one with scalps in his pockets,” she hissed. She glanced back at the Dragonborn, met her gaze. “I just don’t think she’s lying, Krogg. Call it a hunch, but-”
A loud creaking noise cut her off. Everyone turned to see Nin tear the metal chest plate, with the TV screen, off Jem Saito’s lookalike robot. She dug around a bit inside the chassis before pulling out a paper scroll. “Jackpot!” She said. “Haha, I hacked it!”
“What are you doing?” Asked Rook, surprised. “What is that?”
“It’s the magic code,” she said, spreading it out on the floor. “I’m gonna reprogram him!”
“Have you ever… Done that before?”
“No,” she said. “How hard can it be? Someone get me a pen!”
They sealed the scroll back up in the robot’s chest. It whirred to life, staggered to its feet. It looked about. “HELLO, FRIENDS,” it said in a loud, grating voice riddled with static.
“Hello,” said Nin. “I’ll call you… Uncle Petey!”
“Hello Uncle Petey!” Rook said, giving him a firm hand shake.
“Uncle Petey,” Krogg muttered, returning some stolen gold nuts and bolts. They high-fived over it.
“Oh, no,” muttered Vithia. “I’m not having anything to do with this. I’m gone-”
“Hey,” Krogg said, taking one of her shoulders in one of his large, green hands.
“What?” She hissed, whipping around as if trying to slice him in half with just her eyes.
“How long to that town?” He said, his tone measured.
Vithia’s features softened, slightly. She looked at him, then at the rest of them. Rook gave her an encouraging nod. Nin, with some hesitation, gave her a shrug. Vithia looked back at Krogg. “About a day’s travel by foot.”
It was late evening when they arrived at town. “Welcome to Skindeep,” Vithia said.
“Eww,” Nin said. The town was small, built in a circle around a statue of Pelor. In front of the statue was a bulletin board, plastered with wanted posters, many of them bearing Vithia’s face on them.
“Perfect,” Vithia muttered, tearing down one of the posters and shredding it apart in her claws.
“No use,” said Rook. “The whole town’s seen those by now.”
“You need a disguise!” Nin said, with a little too much enthusiasm.
The group exited Ye Olde CVS. Vithia, hood pulled up, wore a pasty layer of cover-up over her black scales, and a pair of hilarious beaglepuss glasses over her snout.
“It’s the perfect crime,” Nin said, rubbing her hands together. “Good job on the makeup, Krogg!”
“Now, if anyone asks, Vithia’s our weird mute leprotic Grandma-ah-AAH,” Nin gasped, throwing her hands over her mouth. She pointed at a storefront sign, a simple drawing of an eye with a clock face for a pupil. “‘Madam Nepenthe’s,’” she read, “A fortuneteller! Let’s go!”
“No way,” said Krogg. “Let’s get a room at the inn and call it a night.”
“Actually,” Rook said, “I, too, would like to see this ‘Madam Nepenthe.’”
“It should be… Interesting,” Vithia said aloofly, scratching at her makeup.
“Well, you girls have fun,” he said with a wave. “If you need me, I’ll be having a drink at the ‘Gold Piece.’”
“Come on, Krogg.”
“It can’t hurt.”
“Don’t split the party!”
“Okay, okay,” he groaned. “Just a peek, but I ain’t payin’.”
There sat an old woman, presumably Madam Nepenthe, meditating. She wore a big purple turban, out from which spilled a few wisps of white hair. Atop her nose sat a pair of tiny spectacles. She opened her eyes as the four heroes and their robot entered the chamber. “Hello,” she said, “I’m Madam Nepenthe. What can I do for you?”
“We’d like our fortunes told!” Nin said, holding out her palm.
“Oh, I don’t tell fortunes,” she said, “but I can tell you what I do do here?” She smiled sweetly. “For fifty gold pieces, you can change anyone’s memory.”
“I’ve never heard of such magic,” said Rook.
“It’s a family practice,” she said. “Passed down from Nepenthe to Nepenthe. I’m afraid it’s just me, now.”
“We could change the memory of my boss!” Vithia said.
“Changing a memory is often just as good as changing the past,” Madam Nepenthe said. “I will need something to represent the person whose memories you are trying to access.”
Uncle Petey dug around in his pockets. “THESE SHOULD SUFFICE,” he said, handing her the golden nuts and bolts. “THESE WERE FROM MY BODY.”
“Ah, yes,” she said, dropping them into a small, shallow bowl. “As for payment-”
“Here,” Krogg said, tossing her an emerald. “That should suffice.”
“Ah,” she said, holding the gem up to the light, adjusting the spectacles on her nose. “Yes, these should do fine.” She set the shallow bowl over a small flame. “Everyone join hands in a semi-circle. Except for the loud one over here.”
“Petey?” Asked Nin. “No, Petey’s cool.”
Madam Nepenthe shook her head. “If he’s truly a robotic construct, he cannot enter the memories with you. He shall wait with me.”
“IT IS OKAY,” said Uncle Petey. “YOU HAVE FUN, NOW, FRIENDS.”
Madam Nepenthe held up a large black key. “This key will grow hot if you’re on the right track,” she said, handing it to Vithia. “Are we ready?”
“We been holding hands past few minutes,” Krogg grumbled. “I think we’re ready.”
Madam Nepenthe began some sort of magical chant. The nuts and bolts began to smolder and smoke in the bowl. After a very long time, the room fell away around them. They found themselves in a long hallway, Madam Nepenthe nowhere in sight. They let go of each other’s hands and traveled down the Hall of Recent Memory, down the Vestibule of Teen Awkwardness, and finally into the Corridor of Childhood, where the key grew hot at a door labeled, “Last Days in Childhood Home.”