A rustling of wings roused Jonesie Windell from his slumber on the pleated leather couch in his tiny office. He adjusted himself, turned over and pulled the jacket he was using as a blanket over his head. The carrier pigeon looked at him and cocked it’s head to the side. It’s talons clicked softly against the surface of his desk as it hopped to the edge, and aggravated at being further ignored, expanded it’s wings, knocking his desk lamp across the desk and spilling kerosene onto the grubby maroon carpet.
“Go away” he shouted, muffled by the fabric.
The pigeon opened it’s tiny beak and a voice like a drill sergeant boomed forth, echoing through the room and the inside of Jonesie’s skull, “Get your lazy ass off the couch or you’re fired!”
Instantly, Jonesie dove out from under the jacket and landed on his hands and feet. He scrambled for his balance and blinked wearily at the messenger bird, who was apparently being possessed by his editor-in-chief.
“Yes sir…” he replied, obviously exhausted with dark rings under his eyes and clammy skin.
“You make me sick, Windell. Look at yourself: no prospects, haven’t turned in a story in weeks, about to be washed up, about to be on the street. The only thing you’re good for is turning liquor into nervous sweat. What do you have to say for yourself?”
Jonesie had never seen a pigeon scowl before, and felt a smile spread across his face, even as he fought it with every ounce of his being. The fact that it was such an inappropriate reaction made resisting even harder and he broke into a shaking and uncontrollable laughter. He was greased this time for sure, and knowing that, he simply let go and sunk into the throes of self-deprecating, self-shaming oblivion.
“What the hell is wrong with you Windell? Were you dropped as a child? Did your mother feed you lead-based paint as a baby?” the editor-in-chief flapped his wings as he berated and Jonesie absolutely lost any remaining control.
His head swam as he gasped inbetween bouts of laughter and the previous two days of hard drinking began to turn his stomach from exertion.
The editor was so livid now that his words became a rabid, garbled stream punctuated by constant swearing. The wild exertion caused the pigeon vessel to become light-headed and it lost it’s balance. The editor fell over, falling into the nest of quills and inkwells and making all manner of bad noises and Windel couldn’t breathe at all, doubled over on the kerosene dampened carpet of his office.
He began to gag as his stomach decided to heave vomit. Panting, the bird righted itself and paced back and forth on the edge of Jonesie’s desk, watching the ugliness taking place below on the floor.
Shaking and sweating glue, Jonesie backed away from the pool of bad decisions he had unleashed, sinking back into his sofa.
“You’re revolting” his editor said, pecking at an itch beneath his wing and finding a tasty mite.
“Great, then fire me” Jonesie sighed. Honestly, it was only a matter of time anyway. He was more surprised by the fact that he had made it this long.
The pigeon watched him for several moments considering this, but resumed pacing along the edge of the desk, “No. The Greatfather has requested you personally for a story of particular interest. He requires your ability to fly under the radar among profound, legitimate degenerates. You’re the only reporter we know of sloppy enough to pull it off.”
“Sounds like you really understand the breadth of my skillset, then. What’s the gig?”
“A convention. Those outer space yahoos are renting out the Winter Palace of Erastil for a solid week, invitation only. We want you to infiltrate as a member of the Golarion chapter of the Divine Shadows of the Dark Tapestry.”
Jonesie yawned into the crook of his elbow, “Okay, great. What’s the pay?”
“You get to keep your job, jackass! That’s the pay” the editor cawed, the feathers around his neck splaying out, fluffing him up defensively.
Jonesie shrugged, “So what? You just said you need me specifically. Those tapestry guys are batshit crazy.”
“So” he paused and spoke deliberately and used the editor’s first name for emphasis, “I want hazard pay, Farris.”
“Fine, whatever. They’ve given me a twelve thousand gold budget for this story. Half of that is yours if you can make it back in one piece” he said, annoyed that his whole hand of cards was face-up on the table now.
“Just half?” Jonesie prodded, “Surely my contribution here is more than fifty percent.”
“Wrong, asshole. We’re sending you in with a partner.”
“You’re going to be wearing a scrying stone. I don’t just want a full write-up of this trainwreck, I want footage damnit!”
Jonesie sat up straight and shouted back, “That’s suicide. You want me to cover a lunatic mage convention wearing magical spy gear? A layman can spot a scrying stone, even without being able to detect magic.”
“That’s what your partner is there for. We managed to get an understudy of The All-Seeing Eye himself. Nobody is going to know anything, but for this to work you’re going to have to stay in character. Our contact has already sent an RSVP to the scheduling entity with carefully falsified identities for both of you to use.”
“Identities? What kind of identities?”
“You’ll be posing as husband and wife. Your suite is being rigged as we speak with an illusory field that will suggest to prying parties that all is normal and that you’re newlyweds celebrating your union at a gathering for your mutually shared religion. No detail is spared, from thoughts you would be having all the way to, uh… night time activities.”
“What makes you think we won’t do those things naturally?” Jonesie quipped with a smirk.
The editor cackled laughter, flapping his wings, “Trust me, it doesn’t take a diviner to spot a professional loser.”
“I’ve been called worse by much fancier birds than you, sir. But pleasantries aside, who cares if the wackos are having a convention? Twelve grand is some serious bread for a pigeon like you to throw around. What gives?”
The pigeon vessel slouched somewhat, a somewhat more human defensive posture, “We had an informant pass along some information. This isn’t just a gathering for fun: The Weeping Eye, present author of the tapestry, is departing. Whatever that means. Contenders for his throne are coming to vie for a chance to become the next author. Being entirely composed of oracles, all attending know to expect treachery and accept the risk of death for potentially ascending to full God-head.”
“Whoa” he mumbled, surprised that The Weeping Eye was making the big leap after a thousand years of uninterrupted dominion. Of course, tall-tales speculated on where the authors went when they stepped off into the void, but none had ever returned to confirm any of it.
Jonesie cleared his throat, “Say, how about an advance?”
“Don’t push your luck! You lay around here goldbricking, drawing a salary that you pay forward to the liquor store and then you think we’re giving you an advance?” he squawked furiously.
“Fine, but I’m broke and I’ll need a few provisions for the trip. I can’t show up sober. What would that do for my cover?”
A voucher was cut to cover the deluxe travel accommodations to Maddy’s.
Maddy’s was the hub for interplanar travel for those that didn’t want to be documented in public record. Outside of the mage’s college, there was always someone looking to make some cash running some hedge-wizard travel operation. These places were hotbeds for illegal travel for fugitives, immigrants and journalists alike. Maddox the Fleet was just better at not getting caught than most.
Jonesie’s connecting coach would arrive in a few days along with his “partner” who, being a scholar mage of some kind, was probably a hard-nose of whom he would ditch at the earliest opportunity. In the meantime, he disguised himself well enough that the innkeeper allowed him to open a tab as Farris DeLance, his Editor-in-Chief.
“No advance my ass” Jonesie mumbled as the bartender poured him a frosty pint.
“What was that, Mr DeLance?” the bartender asked.
“Keep em coming” Jonesie shouted, “Everyone’s drinking on me tonight!”