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October 25, 2006, 1:51 pm

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The Lizard Who Leaves His Tail With The Cat


He is a saint and a sinner; an actor, a liar, a genius, a fraud. Prince amongst thieves, lord amongst counterfitters, he is the man with ten thousand names, the man with a hundred thousand faces; he is the Root With Eight Hundred Saplings, he is the Lizard Who Leaves His Tail With The Cat.

The Man
There may be little like a man beneath the makeup; his true face may be as much a mask as any other.  Still, there is a face there- round and plain and vague, his skin rough and reddened by years of harsh, improvised makeup, his hair short and scrubby and prematurely gray from constant dying- he has taken to wearing wigs instead.  There is little to attract attention to him- he is neither short nor tall, thin nor fat nor burly; somewhere between twenty-five and forty.  His eyes are gray and curious and sad, and he speaks with hypnotic enthusiasm in a voice that is neither tenor nor baritone.

The Myth
The chief of the city guard, when asked about the Lizard, will most likely grunt, turn faintly red, and become very interested in his paperwork. When bought a few drinks, he will claim that the lizard can’t be human, that he must be a demon in human form; that no man could do the things he does. 

He will talk about how three of his best officers followed a trail to the Lizard’s den, led by a trusted informant; had found a forger’s press with the ink still wet on the false letter of Marque from the king, but had found no trace of the Lizard- that is, until they held the note their long-gone informant had given them up to the light, and read a taunting message in his own hand, written in invisible ink.

After a few more drinks, if the subject is pressed, he will break down and begin to cry with frustration.  Why he will ask, why can’t we catch him?  Why does he keep toying with us?  And what does he want?

The city’s criminals, on the other hand, will mention the Lizard in hushed, reverent tones.  They will say that he was a great sorcerer, turned to crime after a terrible tragedy and gathering power for his revenge, or that he is a god, a patron saint of Criminals;  Either way, they will invariably claim to have met him, or someone claiming to be him- and the description will vary greatly from one person to the next.

The Truth
Far from a god or demon, the Lizard has never been anything other than human; indeed, in a way, he is something less. And he has no tragedy hidden in his past, nor would he have that much desire for revenge if he did. 

No, the source of the Lizard’s power comes from nothing more supernatural than a particularly fiendish intellect- he is a master not of magic, but of illusion, of the arts of escape and sleight of hand.  And even more than that, he is a master of disguise. He can, and very frequently does, adopt any range of appearances- the fat, waddling foreigner, pale and ruddy-faced with a walrus moustache and tiny glasses; the beggar, covered in sores; the old washer-woman shaking her cane at the children who run by her; the fresh-faced teenager running errands for slightly shady locals- any one of them could be the Lizard. 

The Lizard’s personal history, too, is prosaic at best.  His childhood was perfectly middle-class- his father was a banker, his mother a housewife, his older sister married off to a suitably comfortable and bureaucratic family at the first opportunity.  Growing up, he was neither particularly happy nor unhappy; his parents were loving, but slightly distant.  What it most assuredly was not, was unusual in any way- he had the same schooling, the same values, the same way of life as the countless other children of the countless other bureaucrats that keep the Empire running.  And he couldn’t stand it. 

The Lizard was a quiet, intelligent, imaginative child who preferred reading to playing, and who was easily lost in stories of glory and heroism.

He was mocked by other children for his bookishness, although, to be fair, he was extremely arrogant and looked upon them, in turn, with disdain.  He felt, he knew that he was different from them, that he was somehow better than them, that he was marked with some incredible destiny from birth, and that someday, someday soon, he would be chosen, he would be able to leave his boring, everyday life behind and become a hero.  That day never arrived.

Thus passed the Lizard’s childhood. His dreams faded with every passing birthday, but never truly died. As a teenager, he took to working odd jobs- messenger boy, tavern cleaner, dockhand.  He cared little for the poor pay or harsh conditions; he was far more interested in overhearing the stories of interesting, worldly people- artists, nobles, adventurers, sailors.  He longed to be able to join them, to be able to tell of his own, presumably great, adventures with the sort of casual, world-weary air that they possessed, and he still knew, deep in his heart, that he was special, somehow, remnants of a half-forgotten childhood dream.

In his seventeenth year, though, he found the reality he had refused to accept crashing down on him; his father wished for him to train as a banker, and he found his peers going off to fulfil the countless minor posts they had been destined for since birth.  He panicked and fled, disappearing in the middle of the night.

Penniless, alone, but extremely clever, the Lizard wandered aimlessly for several months, eventually falling in with a group of swindlers and street performers. From them he learned the arts of thievery, of swindling, of the confidence trick, and a sort of unpolished, natural acting.  He quickly outshone the rest of his gang; it seemed he had a great future in crime.  And then, once again, he disappeared.

Months later, he re-emerged, a stage hand at the city’s Theatre; he learned acting by observation and blatant nagging; he saw how the slightest change in tone, in diction, in body language could render an actor an entirely different person.  Even more importantly, he learned the art of costume: where best to buy makeup, or how to compound myriad shades when none could be bought; how to transform grown men into children, or maidens, or demons; how to stitch clothes to change the shape of an actor beneath, so that a thin man could become fat, or a fat man starved.

He began acting bit parts; by all accounts he was a genious on the stage, as well, but once again he vanished.
By this point, he had, at least, some experience, but he still had not left his place of birth.

He took a job with travelling doctor, a quack physician who travelled the continent selling snake oil, and left the city behind. 

Special Equipment
He carries with him, should his costume allow, a small wooden box riddled with hidden chambers.  It contains a makeup kit, a set of lockpicks, several phials of a powerful sleeping potion, smokebombs, matches, small fireworks, pellets of artificial blood- countless tiny things which are tremendously useful in an escape. He will also carry a change of clothes on his person if at all possible.

Roleplaying Notes
The Lizard, for all his genius, is a fundamentally immature character; his scheming is never to gain power, or money, or revenge- what money he does accumulate is either spent on more costuming or sleight-of-hand training, or given away more-or-less at random.  No, his goal, his overriding ambition, is to be interesting

He is no more likely to kill than the average member of the population, and he is ill-prepared for it, anyway: in combat, he is extremely quick, but absolutely useless other than that.  He knows barely enough knife-fighting and fencing to fake a duel, and his strategy invariably involves a great deal of bravado and misdirection designed to impress passers-by and place as much distance between himself and his attacker as possible.  It’s likely that any serious fighter will find his technique absolutely hysterical.

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Comments ( 1 )
Commenters gain extra XP from Author votes.

February 14, 2007, 0:50
This reads like its just about finished. Is it ready for consumption Psalm?

(let me be the first to say, the title is sublime!)

Random Idea Seed View All Idea Seeds

       By: Drackler

The gold hoops and rings that sailors wear are to throw into the sea if there is a storm. These are bribes to the sea gods to let them live through the storm.

Ideas  ( System ) | August 1, 2008 | View | UpVote 6xp

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