From the Journals and Papers of Dr. MorningGlory Gaeston
(Rated PG-13: Adult themes, mild language, violence,)
The rather odiferous group arrived only minutes after Father. He had taken his leave to quickly bathe the stench of the sewers and the filth of the lich from him. “Hopefully,” he had said, “we will not have to repeat that exercise. The dead are dead for a reason and should remain so.” We had all agreed.
“Here you are,” Riona said as she handed the pouch to Connor. The attendant slime of questionable origin from the sewers didn’t seem to bother him as he grasped the leather bag and quickly opened it to retrieve our treasure. He carefully removed the glass orb and everyone gathered round to see.
“It’s beautiful,” he sighed and held it out to inspect it. Beautiful, it wasn’t, but a marvel it was. A totally enclosed glass orb with a miniature pinkish mauve brain free floating in a thick, clear liquid. No, beautiful it wasn’t. The questions poured forth and Connor drew upon his memory of ancient adventurer’s texts in answering the many queries.
“Brainmate, huh,” said Riona. “Well, that would make sense. But if it is sentient, can it sense us and read our minds?”
“It can, yes,” he replied. “But it has no ability to advance any of the psionic traits of the illithid themselves and it simply recognizes us as an intelligent, sentient being of some variety, but it has no ability to make a pre-judgment based on who, or what, we are. It’s used more as a source of information and as something of a recording device – much as we use the Kirani birds.” Everyone nodded as they understood that analogy.
“But if it is a part of the Elder Brain, why can’t it just alert the Elder or some other illithid that it’s been filched and where it can be rescued?” Valygar asked.
“If it were within range of the Elder, it would communicate with it, but I am sure we can safely assume it is not,” Connor began. “And though it may be sentient, it has no logical reasoning abilities, therefore it can’t sense any attendant danger from its surroundings, only from a person intent to do it harm. But even then, it is totally defenseless without its owner illithid to alert. As I said, it can’t extrapolate, but it is a wealth of information into which we will tap as soon as we return to the lab.” Connor was as radiant as a new father would be.
“But won’t the illithid miss it?” asked Anomen.
“Not likely,” he replied. “It appeared to be stored with the brain remains of its owner. When they are ready to return to their illithid city and take the remains for inclusion to their elder, they will miss it. But my guess is that won’t be for a while. From the mere fact of the brainmate even being here, they obviously have a lengthy mission and I am quite sure they hail from a far distance. We’ll retrieve all of this information in our little experiment Glory and I have planned for it.”
“This isn’t dangerous, is it Connor?” Hendak asked most concerned. “There is no chance of this ‘thing’ dominating either of you, is there?”
“No, no…,”he replied. “It is totally harmless in that regard, I am sure. But we will be using both collars to communicate with it, and I will be wearing the controller’s collar, so even if it does possess the ability to dominate, it won’t even have the opportunity when we ‘link’ with it. And,” he smiled, “I would never put Glory at such risk anyway. No… In the interest of science, I shall do this myself.”
“Well,” said Hendak very relieved. “I imagine I am not the only one who is reeking of the stench of our visitation to the sewers today. I think we have enough bath tubs in the house to accommodate everyone.” He looked around at the grubby group of adventurers.
“Even Boo smells of human waste!” said Minsc and held his little friend out by the scruff of his neck and held his nose with his other hand. Everyone laughed.
“Even Boo may have a bath,” I smiled.
“Aran, if you would be so kind to deliver us back to the lab, we can get started on this right away,” said Connor.
“Of course, Connor,” he replied. “I would be delighted.”
The group began to disperse from the lounge to their own rooms in the hopes of shedding the day’s clothing and ridding themselves of the filth collected on their successful mission.
“Be careful, my love,” Hendak whispered and kissed me gently on the cheek. “Try to get back home early. I don’t want to look like a prune waiting in the tub for you.” He chuckled and I blushed slightly as his comment was overheard by several of them.
I was surprised to see Gernsey at the door with a basket when we were leaving.
“Mistress,” she blushed profusely. “I…I was afraid you might not be home in time for dinner, so I took the liberty of preparing some food for you and Con.., Dr. Salzston, in case it grew late before you concluded your work.” She turned to Connor. “And, Dr. Salzston, I also put in an extra piece of cloudberry cake for you.”
Yes, there was love in the making, I thought as I saw how they both looked at each other. Aran raised his eyebrows and grinned at me.
“Thank you, Gernsey. We will try not to be late. And, will you ask Drusay to make sure that Dr. Salzston’s room is prepared for him? He will be staying on with us for several more days for security reasons,” I said smiling at her. A large smile spread across her face.
“I will?” Connor asked and looked at me rather quizzically.
“Yes, you will, so when we get to the Academy, you need to go and pack a bag to bring back with us,” I replied.
“Well,” he laughed nervously, “who am I to argue with such security arrangements?”
Aran only shook his head and laughed.
Aran dropped us at the lab with the promise he would return early evening to fetch us home again. “But we can get a carriage,” I protested. “It is not necessary that you come all the way back here just to bring us home.”
“Yes, it is,” he said emphatically. “I have business to which I must attend and I cannot stay, but I will not have you and Connor riding in a public carriage after dark. It is far too dangerous, Madam, not to mention unseemly.”
“Now who’s the snob,” I whispered and couldn’t help but giggle.
“No, Madam. Just concerned for your safety and comfort,” he sniffed, slightly miffed.
After checking our mice for no ill effects from the bio-agent and showing Aran our rather large, growing culture of slimy microscopic killers, he left and Connor and I proceeded to set up our little interrogation of the brainmate. Both of us were caught up in the excitement and the trepidation of it. We were on the verge of finding out exactly what was going on and neither of us had any idea where this would all lead us.
Connor had decided we would place the orb on the bottom plate of the base of the bell jar. “Easier,” he explained. “The plate is a non-conductive material so we won’t have any low-level energy interference.” We set the brainmate on the plate and Connor placed the collar around it with the clasp in total contact with the glass orb.
“Glory, I hope you have retained your note-taking skills from school,” he said before he slipped the controller’s collar around his neck.
“That is why I have brought in Maurice,” I laughed nervously. “If you recall, my note skills were not the best, so we have him as a backup.” He looked at the big Kirani perched at my side.
“What thoughts I direct to the brainmate, I will verbalize then verbalize its response.” He sighed heavily and slipped the collar around his neck. “Very well, then I suppose we should begin.”
“Who are you?” the brainmate immediately asked when it realized communication was now possible.
“I am your new owner,” said Connor. “You may call me Connor.”
“I am pleased to be part of you, Connor. How may I serve you?”
“I need to know of your former owner and what you can tell me about him,” he instructed. The first round of our questioning had begun.
“His name is Kamuthe, an older illithid of voyager’s repute belonging to the Creative Creed in our city of Algathor,” it replied.
“And what exactly is Kamuthe doing here in the surfacer’s city of Athkatla?” Connor said.
“We are here on a mission of the greatest importance as dictated by the General Gatherers’ Creed of the Illithiad,” it said.
“The General Gatherers Creed? I am unfamiliar with that group. I only know the Gatherers Creed,” said Connor.
“The inter-community Gatherers,” it replied. So the Gatherers had organized across the illithid cities and communities. Not only had they organized, they were directing other Creeds to either do the same, or sponsoring their actions directly.
“And exactly what is your mission here in Athkatla?” he asked.
“To establish an illithid settlement,” it replied.
A bona fide settlement? There was no place in the city where this could be accomplished!
“Is this settlement to be directly within the city?”
“And do you know its location?”
“Not precisely. That location is currently being reconsidered but I do not know why. Perhaps Garonthe, our expedition leader may now know but has not shared with me as yet.”
“Shouldn’t it know where it is?” I asked somewhat puzzled. From what Connor had explained, the brainmate should be aware of all of the details. He looked at me and momentarily removed his collar.
“Not necessarily. If his owner died prior to the location being made known to him, or it, it would have no way of knowing. It only knows what his owner knew,” he scratched his chin. “We’ll come back to this topic later. Maybe we should concentrate on the infiltration of the government officials first, then we can see how much is known about the salt compound we are looking for. How much useful information we retrieve is going to depend on when his owner died.”
I groaned, hoping that this exercise in the sewers had not been in vain for our adventurous risk-takers. Connor slipped the collar on again.
“Are you aware of the government officials and other Amnish citizenry under illithid domination, and if so, do you know who have been subverted?” he asked.
“Yes, I know of those subverted, although there are other targets within the community as well. I am only aware of those who are currently under domination by the trancers.”
He slipped the collar from his neck and looked at me. “Whatever names we get, we know they will only be a partial group, as we don’t know what time frame we are dealing with here,” he cautioned.
“Maybe we can extrapolate who they are by personage and position,” I offered.
“Well, it will be better than not knowing any of them,” he sighed. “And, we can at least find out how they are doing it with these trancers and where they are.” He returned the collar to his neck.
“Would you share those names with us?” he asked.
“Yes. Marion DuBois, Security General of the Government of Amn. Kaynor Sheeze, Security Assistant General of the Government of Amn, Moskel Tain, Director of Prisons of the Government of Amn, Johanna Merchaum, Assistant Director of Prisons of the Government of Amn, Priest Hamblen Davenport of the Church of Waukeen, Acolyte Buta Mendot of the Church of Waukeen, Squire Baston Grill of the Order of the Radiant Heart, Sir Ryan Trawl, Knight of the Order of the Radiant Heart, Marcel Pritch, trader and merchant, Cayman Nighe, trader and merchant, Teran Bodine, of the Shadow Thieves, ” he continued with another half dozen names, many of whom I recognized. Two names jumped out at me. By the Gods!! Sir Ryan!! It couldn’t be!! And Priest Hamblen Davenport had performed our union ritual!! I stood frozen in near shock. Connor slipped the collar from his neck.
“What is wrong, Glory,” he said apprehensively, seeing the look on my face.
“Sir Ryan is Anomen’s father and one of Father’s best friends,” I whispered, still in a state of disbelief of what I had just heard.
“By the Gods,” moaned Connor, astounded. “Do you think…do you think he or Riona have been sharing information with him, inadvertently, perhaps? Or maybe your Father?”
I shook my head. “I…I don’t know. I don’t believe Father would. It’s just not like him. It’s doubtful Anomen would have even seen him within the past few days without mentioning it. We won’t know until we ask them!”
“And do you know any of the others?” he asked.
I nodded. “Yes, Hamblen Davenport performed our union ritual. The two merchants are fairly affluent in the city – I have seen them at many social functions, but they are not the biggest, by any means. The others are middle-level bureaucrats, except for the Security General and his Assistant General. The two other bureaucrats it named are in the Bureau of City Buildings. One is in charge of the City’s Workers’ Guild and the other is responsible for permits and inspections. But nothing really high-level. But we know there are at least two more on the turned list -- the Council members.”
“Hmmm..”said Connor, again scratching his chin. “We can only deduce that the brainmate’s owner died prior to their subjugation.”
If we extrapolate….” I quickly composed a grid chart, keeping the horizontal base line as to type of job/position and the vertical as to the level of importance and influence of job and/or standing within the community. I then filled in the known subverted subjects accordingly, and left ‘blanks’ for the unknown targets. A strange looking pyramid began to take form on my paper, with the top occupied by two question marks.
“So we are no closer to knowing who they are,” I said.
“Not necessarily,” said Connor. “Think about it. We may be able to assume that the illithid started from the bottom and are ‘working their way up,’ just the way Aran outlined it. See? The bottom rungs of your chart are fairly well ‘completed’. If this is true, we can deduce who their chief candidates for subversion were, or are. Gods, Glory, they even have a Shadow Thief!” That meant one thing for sure. Aran was somewhere on the top of their list. They were aiming for either a clear majority on the Council, or the subversion of all of them. We would have to see where this ‘Terel Bodine’ stood on the organization’s roster as soon as he returned. If the pyramid held true, there would be at least one other Shadow Thief, maybe two, between Bodine and Aran within the organization.
“Let us return to this later at the house,” said Connor, rationality returning. “We should explore how the trancers are able to accomplish this in the first place, and see if we can obtain the information regarding our salts. If Aran is indeed on that short list, we need to find that preventative and protect him as soon as possible, and we must assume he is the only link to the other five identities on the Council. If we lose him, then I do fear this all may be for naught.” He resumed the collar again. But we had never answered the question if Aran was a part of the Council. I assumed that Connor was assuming he was.
“Can you explain exactly how the trancers work?” he asked the orb.
“Yes. The trancers are in residence in a state of stasis in our home city and operate through the Elder Brain, which then sends signals through interim relay stations to the Elder Brain Transceiver that is resident within our compound here. The forward illithid provides the beginning link with the subject that is then transferred to the Transceiver and broadcast to the Elder Brain where it is channeled to the appropriate trancer.”
“And how many trancers do you have operating?”
“We can accommodate fifteen and fifteen are currently operational. More cannot be accommodated at such a distance because of the Transceiver’s limitations.”
“Can a trancer dominate more than one subject, and if so, how many?”
“Three subjects at once.”
Three subjects at fifteen trancers, a total of forty-five subjects in all. And we only had perhaps sixteen or seventeen names. By the Gods, we were missing the possible identities of almost thirty possible subjects. Additional targets would have been turned by now, and others would be slated for nearby future dates, and we knew two of the Council were already turned. Connor pulled the collar from his neck
“Glory, we will need to construct your little pyramid with forty-five blocks. Make a note to start at the top with six.” His inference was unmistakable. Somehow, he knew they were planning on subverting all six members of the Council. “We will continue obtaining more trancer information tomorrow with this thing. I think we really need to get to the salts preventative now.” He knew finding the protective salts compound was imperative at this point. Yes, we had to know and we had to know now. He turned and slipped the collar around his neck.
“Did the Creatives ever do any investigation of various metallic salts that could render the illithid’s psionic powers ineffective on humans or elves, or any other species?” he asked.
“And were they successful in isolating such a compound?”
“Yes. It is a fairly complicated metallic salt containing illithium as well as bromine, potassium, chlorine, and sodium. They discovered that in combining the elements, it was necessary to stream a small charge of electricity through the ordinary water suspension thereby breaking the hydrogen and oxygen apart but causing the illithium to attach itself and blend successfully with the ordinary salts that are produced.” Connor was nodding his head thoughtfully as the brainmate gave more exacting details to the creation of the protective solution. He was taking it all in as he made his own little sketches on his piece of parchment.
“Very well. You may sleep now until I awaken you after your rest period,” said Connor.
“Thank you, Connor,” it replied. He slowly removed the collar.
“Well, there is no time like the present,” I said as we proceeded to set up the proper distillation procedure we would need to create the formula as dictated by the brainmate.
“Connor, how are we going to know this works?” I asked him the question I knew he was asking himself as we watched the distillates forming in the bottom of the large glass beaker.
“We won’t know for sure until it is truly tested, Glory,” he sighed.
“And how are we going to do that?”
“The only safe way I can think of offhand is to secure one of those known to be affected, slip our collar on him and then inject him with our preventative. By using the collar we will, in effect, dominate the dominating trancer. After the preventative, the connection would be broken, but the trancer wouldn’t know why if we gave him the equivalent of a post-hypnotic suggestion.”
“That is a lot of ‘ifs’, Connor. Or, we could simply inject someone and send them to face to face with the illithid,” I mused. “The illithid wouldn’t exactly be armed, would they? They’re totally dependent upon their psionic powers for detection and protection and have very, very limited eyesight, as we know it… And if they are ineffective against someone using the preventative, then it wouldn’t take much to defend oneself, would it, that is, if it were even necessary.”
“Glory…. I don’t like the sound of that,” he warned. “And if the preventative doesn’t work, whoever that someone is would end up being evening meal and midnight snack!” He was trying to dissuade any thought I might be having of doing something very, very foolish.
“Oh, Connor, don’t worry,” I brushed him off. “Our problem is that we don’t want to tip our hand until we can find out exactly where and what their plan is. We still don’t know where their proposed city is going to be, or rather where it might already be started. And then we have to decide how to eliminate them, not just here but in the originating city, wherever it is!” I turned to face him. “Because if we don’t eliminate them, and as far as they have developed, it will only be a matter of time before they return with more advanced and sophisticated ways to overtake us. And I don’t know if we will be so fortunate the next time. Let’s face it, Connor. They’re working on how to get around the protective salts issue even as we speak. And if they can do that, we would have nothing, absolutely nothing, standing between them and us.”
“Your words are not wasted on me, Glory. I am very, very aware that what you say is true,” he sighed and shook his head. “Here, let us collect our salts and get them into an appropriate suspension. I think we may be able to produce this in an ingestible form eventually, but right now we need to make it for intra-muscular injection. According to the brainmate’s information, we need to mix it at this ratio.” He showed me his notes.
“Connor, that is going to be very thick and hurt like the nine-hells,” I mumbled as I reviewed his notes.
He smiled sadly. “Not as much as being the main course at an illithid dinner party. Anyway, you are the doctor and we will only need about six milliliters per dose, except for our big man, Minsc, and we should probably give him seven or eight. Everyone will be upset with you, instead of me, when you are injecting such pain into their backsides.” The thought of lining everyone up with pants dropped must have amused him as he chuckled gleefully to himself. I just groaned at him.
By the time Aran had arrived we had mixed enough preventative to inoculate our household and a few dozen more. Connor had blushed but lowered his trousers and his underwear just enough for me to properly inject him with his six ml. And it did hurt like nine-hells when I injected myself immediately afterward. My backside was going to be very uncomfortable for at least a few hours, I decided, and definitely bruised tomorrow.
“Take down your pants,” I nodded to Aran as we stood in the middle of the lab and I filled the syringe with exactly six ml of the heavy briny liquid. Connor had dashed to his quarters to fetch a few belongings to bring with him to the great house.
“Madam?” he asked, raising his eyebrows and a look of surprise overtaking his face.
“I said, take down your pants. You have to have the preventative and this is the only method we have for delivery right now,” I explained as he fidgeted with the hat brim in his hands.
“Is there not a potion, perhaps, or –“ he began hesitantly.
I interrupted him. “No, there isn’t. Now please loosen your pants, pull up your shirt and bend over the lab table, if you please.” He blushed deep crimson. “For gods’ sakes, Aran, I am a doctor. And, please don’t tell me that the Shadowmaster is afraid of a little needle.”
He slowly turned and loosened his belt and trousers and leaned again the lab table edge. I reached, pulled his shirt up and tugged at his pants. Well, Hendak wasn’t the only one who apparently disliked underwear, I thought as I again pulled at the pants to reveal half of a naked right buttock.
“Just relax. But it’s going to sting just a little,” I tried to reassure him. I dabbed it with a disinfectant and as gently as possible pierced the skin with the needle. I heard the hissing sound as he slowly exhaled between his clinched teeth. I pressed slowly on the syringe plunger as the thick fluid slowly entered the muscle, then removed the needle and again dabbed with the disinfectant.
“There! All done. Now that wasn’t so bad was it?” I said cheerfully.
“You were getting even with me, weren’t you,” he grumbled as he stood and tucked his shirt into his trousers, eased them up and cinched his belt. “For this afternoon in the nursery.” He turned around to face me.
“No,” I smiled as I gathered up several syringes and put them into our supply box. “It is a very heavy solution and because of that, it is difficult for your muscle to absorb it quickly. That is why it hurt so badly. I tried to make it as painless as possible. I have no reason to be ‘getting even with you’, as you say, for this afternoon.”
“Perhaps I should be more grateful for your consideration,” he mumbled and gently rubbed his back side, although I could tell he didn’t necessarily believe me.
I was thankful he quickly changed the subject and I did not wish to pick up on our conversation as he had promised earlier. “But it is beginning to get late and we really should be going. You can fill me in on the carriage ride home.” It was getting late. The sun had set a few hours ago and tomorrow would again be a long day.
We walked to the carriage where we met Connor, each of us a box in hand.
“Aran, do you know a Shadow Thief in your organization named Teran Bodine?” I quizzed him.
He nodded. “Yes… why?”
“Who is he, or better yet, what does he do for you?”
“He’s a territory captain. Responsible for the north end of the Promenade. Someone else is responsible for the south end. Yes, that’s him….” I could tell he was searching his memory. “He’s adequate. He assumed the position almost three years ago.”
“And who does he report to?”
“Are you asking me specifics about the Shadow Thieves, my Lady?” He was reactively cautious.
“Yes, I am. It’s important, and on the ride home, we will explain,” I reassured him.
“He reports to the District Captain of the Promenade, Alexa Charletane.”
“And who does Alexa report to?”
“To me. All of the district captains report directly to me. Why?”
TO BE CONTINUED……………
Mind Games XI
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