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#1 Guest_MorningGlory_*

Posted 07 October 2012 - 12:21 AM


From the Journals and Papers of Dr. MorningGlory Gaeston
(Rated PG-13: Adult themes, mild language, violence,)


Noon meal was a little more animated than it had been over the past few weeks. Connor and Nigel had both gasped in horror when I outlined my suspicions concerning the new construction at the Promenade, while Father just looked at me and shook his head in disbelief.

“What do we do?” Nigel asked. “What if they have already taken up residence?”

“Not likely,” said Connor, once he had regained his composure. “But I am sure soon. Very soon. Sounds as if an inspection tour of some sort was taking place this afternoon.”

“Yes, I will convey this to the party when I see Hendak tonight,” I nodded in agreement.

Noon meal was quickly finished and I left the gentlemen still discussing the possibilities in the dining room to meet Ribald in the lounge. Father had briefly quizzed me on my unusual guest prior to his arrival, and seemed content with my explanation of the delivery of various items needed for my lessons, although I did have to sit and listen to another five minutes worth of his opinion on the value of them. I already had Drusay set out the down payment for Ribald’s services in a large leather pouch.

“Ribald,” I said, as Drusay closed the lounge doors behind him after pouring tea, “Your exploits and your bravery are legendary, and I --rather, we -- desperately need your help. Have you considered my proposal?” I picked up my cup and set back on the settee awaiting his answer. The big half-elf fidgeted with the brim of his thin leather hat as he sat opposite me, still sizing me up. He leaned forward, raised one eyebrow and planted his left forearm upon his knee. He looked very squarely at me with his piercing green eyes and proceeded in his melodious but gravely voice.

“Yes, Madam, I have considered it, and yes, I am willing to take you up on it. I am prepared to deliver myself and two fighters for a fee of 10,000 gp. Half payable in advance, and the balance upon completion.” He then nodded. I wondered if it was customary for adventurers to accept an offer without hearing what the quest was. I didn't think Ribald had lived as long as he had by giving preference to avarice over common sense, either, so I was momentarily puzzled that he had so readily accepted even though he had not yet heard what it entailed.

“Wonderful. I was afraid you might refuse,” I sighed in relief “Then this is what we are going to do. I need you to accompany me through the newly rebuilt construction at the Promenade, in particular the lower subterranean levels if they still exist. I have reason to believe we will find a few illithid there. You and your mercenaries will go with me there.”

“Well, m'Lady, I must say, I do love a good fight, but I haven’t fought no illithid in a very long time. Very nasty creatures, and the mad mage’s former dungeon is certainly no place for a Lady the likes of you, if I may say so,” he shook his head slowly side-to-side and I could see he was having very mixed feelings about this now that he knew exactly where I wanted to go. “We don’t know what could still be down there.”

“All I need you and your men to do is to protect me, just in case we run into other creatures that might either be left over from that time, or others who have taken up residence since,” I explained. “As for any illithid I am sure we will find, we’re not going to fight them, Ribald. We're going to sabotage what I believe to be their 'new abode'. And, we’re going to capture one to bring home.”

“Capture one? Capture a mindflayer?!? We would barely be able to protect you from them, Miss Glory. But capture one? That’s damnably near impossible! It’s never been done before!” he shook his head side to side and his face filled with dread and concern. “Er.. and, pardon me cursin’. A habit of the road, I fear.”

“Not to worry, Ribald. But, it has been done before. Riona and her adventuring party succeeded in doing so. But, it was for a short time and the beast died. As for us, I have the means to protect us from the mindflayers, as well as the means to subdue one and bend him to my will without any fear that he can escape, or turn his psionic powers on us,” I explained. “All I need is backup. Dependable fighters for whatever we might run in to down in the dungeon level, and a mage’s touch just in case we might need more than just muscle and fighting skill. After all, who knows what remnants from Irenicus might have been awakened by the rebuilding.” I paused to let it sink in. “And, of course the three of you would have to agree to take the preventative in order to be protected from the illithids’ powers in the first place. Between the preventative and your combined skills, it would like a afternoon walk in the Promenade. Simple in, simple out. Done.”

“Aye..." He was thinking it over. "I can provide some magical protection and a few special spells of my own for you, and some decent fightin' you'll be needin’ -- although my magic's not like your Pa's, Madam. Him being a wizard of record, he’s got more juice than me. You might want to include him in this party, too.” He again raised his eyebrow.

“My Father is not a fighter, Ribald. You are. And, you have had experience with this type of thing. He hasn’t. And, since you have brought it up, there is another condition of our arrangement,” I said. “That our mission and its subsequent details remain completely confidential. No one, except you, your mercenaries, and I, must know about this. This is for our own protection, among other things. I trust I can rely upon your discretion?”

The furrows in his brow rippled to the shiny baldness atop his head contrasting sharply with his fringe of furry hair. He nodded thoughtfully. “Aye, Madam. I understand. But, just what are you goin' to do with this beastie, assuming we find one and you capture him? And, why do you even want to trouble yourself with such a creature in the first place? Such nasty other-worlders don’t belong here in the first place. We should shed all of Toril of ‘em if we can.”

“If we are so fortunate to find one and also capture him, we will disguise him as best we can and take him to my office in the Promenade where we will hold him temporarily until a more appropriate and secure location can be prepared, then move him under cover of darkness. Unless, of course, you have an alternative site available that might suit our needs. Say, perhaps for another 1,000 gp on top of the 10,000 gp total? As for why I want the creature, it’s primarily for research purposes.” I waited for his reply, hoping my explanation was enough to satisfy any inquisitiveness for the moment and hoping he had a better idea on where to stash the beast. He nodded thoughtfully and gave me another of his ‘raised eyebrow’ look. He was thinking.

“Madam, I have a few goodly sized storage rooms in the basement of the Mart that might be more appropriate than having the slimy bastard messin’ up your nice office and all. If you have the means to render his mental psionic abilities useless, then, yes, that would be a better plan. And one of those basement rooms does connect to the sewer so if we can gain access from the new building to the underground drains, there would be no reason to risk exposin' our little plan to the general public. We could just herd the beastie up the pipe and into his new temporary home. I could accommodate the miserable thing for you for the short term – ‘til you get a proper place for him.”

“That is an excellent suggestion, Ribald. And would the additional 1,000 gp be acceptable for, shall we say, his room and board?” His eyes sparkled at the thought of fattening his purse a little more.

“Yes, Madam, for 1,000 gp, I most certainly can accommodate the beastie for as long as you wish. But know if at any time he should become threatening in any way, I would have to kill him. Can’t have him runnin' amok and scaring my coin-paying customers away, you know. Got a reputation to uphold.”

I nodded and smiled. He had agreed. We had a deal. I sighed in relief as I sat back and sipped at my now cold cup of tea.

The thought of actually seeing what was down under the Promenade and perhaps capturing one of the creatures sent my heart racing. It was frightening but the prospects of such a daring undertaking sent the adrenaline to drown out the fear. The fact I had concocted such an idea and had put it into a viable, working plan made me giddy. All that remained was its execution. And the payment.

“In anticipation of our agreement, I had 5,000 gp prepared for you,” I began and nodded toward the side of the door at a huge gray pouch. “And I have left written instructions that in the event something should happen to me, you will be paid the balance with no questions asked and no recriminations.” I handed him the note I had hastily scribbled prior to his arrival that gave him legal claim for his monies due. “However, make no mistake of it, Ribald, I fully intend to pay you in person -- and for a job very well done.” I smiled at him.

“Aye, Madam. I suspect you’ll be doin’ just that,” he nodded as he stuffed the envelope inside his jacket pocket.

“Tell me, Ribald. Do you know who you are going to get to assist us?” I asked, more from curiosity of how these things worked as opposed to whom it actually was going to be. I wouldn't have recognized any names he could have offered anyway.

“Aye, m'Lady. I have two very accomplished gentlemen in mind, and I am quite sure they are available. However, I am sure you understand their need for anonymity,” he winked and nodded his head. “We usually don’t go ‘round broadcastin’ names just outright. Not always good for business or longevity, if you get my drift.”

“I totally understand,” I smiled and acted as though I understood perfectly.

“Well, then, Miss Glory, I guess we have a deal,” he said, rising to take his leave and I followed suit. “I thank you for the tea, and, of course, for the coin,” he nodded toward the pouch. “And your goods been placed with your steward when I arrived. So, I suppose if we are finished here, I’ll be takin’ my leave.”

“Very well, Ribald,” I nodded. “Then I shall meet you at the Mart at, say…. Dawn, six days hence?”

“Aye, Madam. And, Madam, if you don’t mind me telling you how to go about this – and I don’t mean to intrude, but I’ve been at this a long time – I would suggest you come to the Mart first, and very early. I’ll send someone with a carriage for you. Then when you arrive, I’ll outfit you with the best I got in the back room and then you don’t have to go ‘round the city in your armor and all. Can’t have you looking like an adventurer, you know. Wouldn’t be fittin’. Then we can either go down the sewer or take the surface walk. It will be early, so I doubt many will be out and about and if they are, they won’t be too suspicious of a group of gadabout adventurers out for an early morning stroll.” He paused a moment. “And, Madam, might I ask how you plan on controlling the beastie, that is, if we find one and capture it?”

“I have a mechanical devise of their own making that they use in controlling their thralls. It’s a collar and it renders them to the controller’s will,” I explained. “I’ll be wearing the controller’s complementing collar. Then after we get him back to the Mart and he is properly subdued, I will turn that collar over to you and you may control him at will with thought commands. Does that meet with your approval?”

“Aye, Madam. It is a good plan. Very well, then.” He nodded, seeming more than satisfied with what I had proposed. “Er.. one more thing, Madam. The beastie’s eats?”

I laughed. “According to my information, they require ‘sustenance’ once a month. I am sure that my colleague, Dr. Salzston, will be able to arrange for proper nutrition, although, it may not be totally what ‘the beastie’ is accustomed to.”

“Aye, very good, Madam. Very good!” He laughed at my somewhat joke and was very relieved that he wasn’t going to be required to furnish ‘food’. “Then we’re all set.”

“I believe that we are, Ribald. I will have the preventative potion delivered to you in the meantime along with instructions on when you must take it prior to our little venture. There will be three doses. One for you, and one for each of your associates. It will be up to you to insure each one is properly protected. If any of them seem squeamish, please tell them their life may depend on it. You may also tell them that they will forever be immune to any illithid's mental attack in the future. The preventative provides permanent immunity.”

He nodded. “Aye, Madam. That won’t be a problem. I will make sure we all take our medicine.” We walked to the lounge door where he hoisted the leather pouch over his shoulder. A wide toothy grin spread from ear to ear.

“Now, I believe I have some new toys to inspect,” I said, referring to the goods he had just delivered.

“That you do, Madam. And just remember how I showed you to put on your equipment, and if you have a problem, either stop in, or send a messenger and I, or someone, will be over to help you,” he replied. “It’s very important that you have your armor on properly and have your equipment in order.” I knew he didn’t realize he was waggling his finger at me in a fatherly way. I wondered if he was this thoughtful to his other customers. “And when we have our little adventure, remember to bring only the Demarchess with you. I will have everything else.”

“I shan’t forget, Ribald,” I smiled.

“Aye, Madam. Be sure you don’t. And practice with her as much as you can in the meantime,” he winked. “We may be protectin' you, but if I even have an inkling of what could possibly be going on down there, I don’t believe we should expect to just waltz in there and be greeted with open arms, if you know what I mean. We must all be prepared, and this means you as well.”

“You are absolutely correct, Ribald. I fully intend to be totally prepared,” I replied, my voice full of conviction. Enough so, that Ribald seemed pleased with my tone and level of commitment.

I walked him to the door and bid him farewell, thanking him once again. My heart began to pound again as I closed the door behind him and I thought of what was to come six days hence. I didn’t know enough to be properly afraid.

# # #

“You look a bit tired,” said Aran the next morning on our ride to the cabin. “Feeling all right?”

I nodded. “Yes, just a restless sleep in part. I don’t sleep well without Hendak. We, er, haven’t spent much time apart and it is an adjustment.” I wasn’t going to be more explicit than that. And I certainly wasn’t going to tell him that the real reason I couldn’t sleep had more to do with visions half-dreams of battling dark creatures and wondering what in the nine-hells I had gotten myself into.

“Ah, yes. Being apart,” he nodded in empathy. “I’ve never had the pleasure of growing accustomed to only one person’s company for any duration, but I can well imagine it would be stressful if one did and suddenly that person was gone.” Did I detect a note of sadness in his voice?

The lessons went well and I tried my very best. I knew I had only a short time to gain as much improvement as possible. I listened intently and concentrated on my every movement. Aran seemed pleasantly surprised at what he called my excellent improvement. Marcos had made special spice cookies and I, of course, couldn’t say no to the small pouch he put into my hands as we readied to return to the city.

“And now that there is no lab,” Aran said as we rode along, “will you work with Connor at home?”

I nodded. “Yes, but right now he and Nigel are making preventative and the room is too small for all three of us. Until they conclude that phase, I think I will transcribe some notes with Maurice then spend some time with my children. I must also arrange for the catering for the party. I imagine that will fill my day.” I must have sounded somewhat preoccupied, as indeed, I was.

“Glory, you don’t seem yourself today,” he began hesitantly. “Are you sure it is only because Hendak is gone? You weren't like this before when he left.” I glanced at him as a quizzical look of concern seemed to brush his face.

“I assure you, Aran, that I am quite fine. I simply have not been getting enough sleep and our days are always full of running and doing. It’s…it’s just beginning to show a bit. The stress, you know,” I reassured him. He nodded and mentioned no more of it.

# # #

I actually kept to the plan I had outlined to Aran for most of the day. Until mid-afternoon when I became bored and restless and also realized that I needed more practice but had no place to do it. I grabbed my cloak and asked Drusay to call a carriage. Perhaps a short visit to my office and maybe a side trip to the Mart. Perhaps Ribald might have an idea where I might be able to find some more practice time.

I automatically looked to the new structure to see if anyone was lurking or grouped in front of it as I descended from the cab at the Promenade. Thankfully, no one was there to pique my curiosity. I entered my empty and quiet office and shed my cloak. It was Charona’s afternoon at school and her desk was clean and orderly with a growing stack of communications she had been accumulating for me. I hurriedly glanced through them. Nothing major, thank the gods. All was quiet. Maybe it was time for a short visit to Ribald.

“Madam Glory,” he effused when I entered into his store. There were few shoppers and his assistant seemed to have them all well in hand.

“Ribald. The gift was such a wonderful success, that I thought perhaps I would try to find another for another dear friend. Might you be available to assist me in a selection?”

“Of course, Madam,” he bowed ever so graciously. “Would you care to follow me?” We retraced our steps from the prior day. He closed the door behind us then cocked his head looking intently at me. “Have you changed your mind, Madam?” he asked.

“Oh, no, Ribald, not at all,” I assured him. “I just need some suggestions of where I might be able to go to practice. I.. I can’t exactly do it at my house. It would raise far too many questions.”

He nodded thoughtfully as he scratched his chin. “I’ll tell you what,” he began. “I’ll let you use my own personal practice range downstairs, and even better than that, I’ll give you your own private entrance.” I must have really looked perplexed. “Follow me,” he said as he went to the front left hand corner.

With a wave of the old mage’s hand, the wall ‘moved’ aside revealing a secret stairway down to the basement. We stood in the doorway as he yet again waved his hand and another doorway immediately opened across the landing. This one, however, was straight into my office storage room! I looked at him not realizing my mouth was open.

“Er, something I discovered some time ago, Madam, but I assure you I have never, er, availed myself of its use,” he smiled shyly. “But I think it will work for your needs quite nicely. Here, let me show you.” I followed him onto the landing atop the downward set of stairs. Lights magically sprang to life to illuminate the steep, narrow passageway.

“And here we are, Madam,” he said, as we came out into a brightly lit long narrow room. At the far end were various targets with various distance markings in between. “I come here to practice myself,” he said proudly. “Got to keep the ol' skills up you know, just in case I ever get the wanderlust again.” I nodded.

“Now, I would suggest that in keepin’ with your practice and your learnin’ that you stay with what you know. Don’t be tryin’ no fancy stuff until you’re instructor gets to that. Just work on the basics and get them refined. I got some extra comfy clothes if you don’t want to bring your own, and I have both wooden practice daggers and the real thing in the cabinet there, so you can just help yourself. They’re both in perpetual supply and no clean up as they will return to the pouches on their own. I, er, got tired of always running out and the mess of blades and wood all over the place so I just put a recurring inventory spell on the pouches.” He paused and chuckled briefly at his own ingenuity.

“But only use what you’re accustomed to. There’s both throwing daggers and piercing daggers. Don’t be gettin' uppity with your blades just yet – for your own sake. I don’t want you suffering some silly mishap just because you were getting too rambunctious or impatient with your skill level. These things take time. Plus, I don’t want to be running down here and healing you every five minutes for some such foolishness.” He grinned at his own admonitions.

“I promise I will use extreme caution, Ribald,” I nodded. “I have no intentions of hurting myself at this stage.”

“I trust you’re good to your word, Miss Glory. I’ll leave that door to your office open for the time being, and then you can come and go as you please. Won’t be bothering me none, and if I get a chance, maybe I can sneak away and give you a few pointers as well. I’m not the best with a dagger myself, but maybe I can help a little with some of the elementary things. You already got your own style and I can see you have promise of being pretty good at it. You’ll never make an assassin, ‘cause your heart isn’t in killin’, but you’ll be able to very well take care of yourself before too long.”

I could tell it wasn't gratuitous mouthings from this experienced adventurer. He had seen it all and practically done it all. His sincere tone told me it was his honest assessment of the little he had observed. “Have any idea when you may be wantin’ to get on with it?” he asked and smiled, my impatience very apparent to him.

“I think tomorrow afternoon,” I replied thoughtfully. “For a few hours. I’ll come down to my office and then slip down here. It’s very important that no one knows I am here.”

“I assumed as much, Madam,” he chuckled. “Well, no one will be hearin’ anything out of me, that’s for sure.”

We returned to the Mart’s back room and after Ribald closed the secret door exited to the main room of the store.

“I’m so sorry, Madam, that we couldn't find anything that might interest your friend,” he said, accounting for the fact we had returned empty-handed. “Perhaps I will be fortunate to acquire such an item within the next few days, if you want to stop back in again to see me.” He turned and bowed slightly.

“Yes, thank you, Ribald. I just may do that if I have the opportunity,” I replied, keeping our little exchange on track for the benefit of the guard’s prying ears.

“Please do, Madam, as it is always a pleasure to have you grace my humble establishment.”

To Be Continued......................

#2 Guest_Blue-Inked_Frost_*

Posted 07 October 2012 - 11:15 AM

A preparation chapter, I see, slowly building up the logistics. :)

With so much discussion of money and MorningGlory's easy agreement to raising the prices, it feels a little like she's throwing her money around. Just a minor note, "mental psionic abilities" is redundant.

I liked the characters taking care to take precautions before their mission--it can build up the tension of attempting something dangerous and can be interesting to read. :D

#3 Guest_MorningGlory_*

Posted 07 October 2012 - 05:41 PM

A preparation chapter, I see, slowly building up the logistics. :)

With so much discussion of money and MorningGlory's easy agreement to raising the prices, it feels a little like she's throwing her money around. Just a minor note, "mental psionic abilities" is redundant.

She hasn't a clue how much something like this costs -- this is all unknown territory for her. She's not exactly in a position to ask someone, and she can't afford to insult with an inadequate offer (risking a flat-out refusal). Plus, she can afford it. And, yes, "mental psionic" is redundant.

I liked the characters taking care to take precautions before their mission--it can build up the tension of attempting something dangerous and can be interesting to read. :D

It should be the so-called appetizer to the so-called main meal -- designed to stir the reader's mental appetite in anticipation of the main course to follow. :)

Thanks, again, BIF!

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