From the Journals and Papers of Dr. MorningGlory Gaeston
(Rated PG-13: Adult themes, mild language, violence,)
Caterers and decorators were busily doing their jobs when I came down for noon meal. I had soaked as much of the stench from me as was possible. Fortunately, no one had seen me returning earlier and if my brief presence through the foray, the hallway, and the stairs left an odoriferous reminder of the city’s excellent sewer system, it was quickly dissipated by the copious flowers being delivered.
Connor and Nigel proudly announced that the quantity of ingestible preventative now exceeded our needs for the evening’s gala and was now being introduced into the sparkling wine for our toast celebrating the first birthday of the twins. Tradition dictated that everyone’s glass be emptied during the celebratory toast, even those who rarely imbibed. Father and Drusay had already stationed the various Kirani birds around the perimeter of the main room. Waukeen had been summoned on an emergency to the Outlands much earlier with a promise she would return as soon as was possible. Fresh and clean, I felt most smug about my own little accomplishment from the morning, but I did not dare break it to anyone just yet. I wanted to tell Hendak first. Then I wanted to tell Aran. Then I wanted to tell Connor that I had a special present for him. Then I wanted to tell the others. Riona would be proud of me, but I already knew I would be compelled to listen to Father's uncontrollably rant for a good hour or more.
It was quickly approaching the appointed hour of our guests to arrive as I sat in front of my dressing room mirror. I had just finished helping Margarite dress my little ruffians in their little party outfits. The ‘guests of honor’ would attend the soiree for only a short while so that well wishers could ogle and coo over them, say how much they had grown, the toast would be made, after which Margarite and I would whisk them upstairs out of whatever chaos would ensue. There was a knock at the door. It was Drusay.
“Madam, Master Linvail has arrived early and requested that he see you immediately. I told him I would deliver his request and asked him to please wait in the lounge,” he said.
Aran? Early? I wondered what could be so urgent. I had sent a messenger with the update, leaving out the more pertinent details of my participation, only a few hours earlier. “Tell him I will be right down, Drusay,” I replied. He nodded and closed the door. I quickly finished readying myself and left to meet him.
“Aran, how lovely to see you,” I said as I entered the lounge and closed the doors behind me. “You’re early.” He was handsomely and elegantly dressed as he sipped from a glass of sherry.
“Yes, I wanted to thank you for your earlier message, plus, I have a gift for the hostess that I wanted to hand-deliver prior to the festivities,” he said and handed me an elegantly wrapped gift box. I couldn't imagine what on Toril it could be.
“Aran, you know you don’t have to bring me a gift.” This was indeed strange. A small token something, maybe, but a gift?
“I know, but I consider it gauche to arrive empty-handed. I may be a thief, but I am a civilized thief. Now, go ahead and open it. I think you will be very pleased with it,” he motioned toward the box. He had again found his charming swagger that had been missing for the prior two weeks. He was almost relaxed.
I sat down and slowly untied the silk bow and tore away the paper. I lifted the top of the box. I blinked. Was I seeing things? ..Imagining things? It was my Demarchess!
“But....,but how….is there another?” I stammered, not quite finding the words.
“You dropped it this morning,” he said softly and grinned.
“I what….? How do you--”
He interrupted me. “--Because I picked it up.”
It took a moment to sink in. “You picked it up? How in nine-hells could you have—“ I stopped abruptly. “DRAN. YOU’RE DRAN!!!!” I shouted as the realization suddenly swept over me. It was now my turn to be two steps shy of livid.
“Now don’t be upset,” he tried to soothe me over. “Simon and I often hire out just for the thrill of it. And when Ribald told me—“
“What do you mean ‘when Ribald told you’,” I interrupted him trying to keep my voice down.
“Just calm down, and I will explain,” he said softly and sweetly. I was way past the point where ‘soft and sweet’ was going to work on me.
“Calm down, you say? I should use this on you for deceiving me!” I angrily gritted my teeth.
“Oh, you think so, Madam..." Soft and sweet was gone. "And what of you? What you did this morning was nothing short of the type of duplicitous behavior that I would expect from the likes of Alexa Charletane -- not you!”
“Duplicitous behavior? How dare you, Aran Linvail, accuse me of such a thing. You, of all people! And comparing me to that… that… bed jockey who works for you is the height of insult.”
He drew a deep breath and looked at me for a long moment. “Are you going to let me explain, or not.”
“I suppose I have no choice.” I already knew I would not be able to stay angry with him. He had returned my dagger, the symbol of my independence, and he knew what it meant to me. Knowing that, he had to have also known what risk he assumed by telling me the truth.
He sat down beside me and handed me a glass of sherry. “Remember Sashar's contact?” he said quietly as he glanced at the door.
“Yes, you never revealed who it was,” I nodded, my curiosity replacing my ire. “You only said that Sashar didn't know who it was. It didn't seem pertinent to what I was doing, and I thought that if you had wanted me to know, you would have told me.”
“That is true.” He nodded and paused. “That contact is Ribald.”
“Ribald?!?” I was first perplexed, but in immediate hindsight, it made sense.
“Yes, Ribald does some, er, intelligence work for me from time to time,” he began to explain. “So when you approached him with your proposal for breaking into the illithid compound, he immediately came to me. He, er, thought you were crazy at first, until I told him to accept your offer and that Simon and I would accompany you and him as the paid mercenaries.”
“Who’s Simon?” I asked.
Aran snickered. “Simon is my Master Assassin. He holds the rank I held before I was promoted to Shadowmaster. He also teaches our assassins – right out on the same range where I’ve been teaching you. Let’s put it this way, Glory. If you had really paid our going rates for such work, you could have never afforded us.”
“But why? Didn't you trust me?” I was suddenly on the verge of tears. The truth was bitter. I had accomplished nothing. It was all orchestrated for me. The first foray into my newly found self-sufficiency and independence and it was a sham. I felt deceived and humiliated and hurt.
“Of course, I trusted you. It was an excellent plan, but it required the best for the job. And you got the best – Simon, Ribald, and me. But, it was your plan, your idea, and it was incredibly successful. You achieved each of your objectives, no one was hurt, and you should be very proud of yourself. I know I’m very proud of you. And, on top of the planning, you didn’t flinch once when the unexpected happened during the execution. Not even when those two mindflayers took a bead on you.” He chuckled and at that point I couldn't help but do the same.
“But if you hadn't taken out the one, I don’t know if I would have managed by myself.”
“Yes, you would have. I was watching you. Your instincts took over and you applied them to the scant bit of training that you have had. You might have had a few bruises after tussling with the bastard, but I have no doubt as to who would have won. Even Ribald was genuinely impressed.”
“Yes, really. He had a great chuckle after you left and bragged that he 'always knew she had it in 'er.' to quote him.” He took his fingertip and dabbed at the tear that had begun to form in the corner of my eye. “Now, no tears. Brave humans who capture dangerous illithid don’t cry, Madam.”
# # #
I gave the box to Drusay and asked that he return it to my apartment for safekeeping. People had begun to arrive and Father and I anxiously greeted each and every one. Aran soon found his way to Connor and the two chatted merrily about the rebuilding of the lab, and I could see from across the room that Aran was in a very generous mood and nodding yes to each of Connor's requests on the re-build.
There was one guest that I was waiting for in particular, that I had promised Anomen I would dutifully attend to in private – Sir Ryan Trawl. I already had Drusay prepare his favorite aperitif in the lounge, that I might coax him into a small chat and a drink before the festivities began. It would give Maurice the opportunity to watch as the salts worked to eliminate the domination. I didn’t have long to wait.
“My darling, Glory,” he said as he passed through the door, and kissed my cheek lightly. It took very little to convince him to have a private word about Anomen. It took even less to get him to drink the small glass of liquor that had been prepared.
As we sat on the small sofa nearest the window, I watched as his face grew pale and void of all expression. For the longest of moments, his eyes were blank, and if I could have put a medical term to his condition, it would have been wakened catatonia. Slowly, life returned to his eyes and then his facial expressions. The blood flow returned to his cheeks.
“What happened?” he mumbled weakly.
“You’ve been under the mental influence of the illithid, Sir Ryan. I just gave you a preventative that broke their domination and will protect you from it ever happening again,” I explained and squeezed his hand with reassurance.
“But, how? And, why?” His jumbled and confused state was to be expected.
“I will explain more later, but right now, tell me how you feel..”
We sat several minutes more until I was satisfied there were no ill effects from either the domination or the preventative. He began remembering the ‘turn’ in bits and pieces and filled me in on the exact circumstances. His squire, returning from a trip to the Sword Coast, and suddenly from nowhere when they were alone, an illithid had appeared… Yes, it was exactly as we had suspected.
“Yes, Madam. Sir Ryan is completely back to normal. Blood pressure, heart rate.. all within acceptable limits of normalcy,” the bird replied.
“Excellent. Shall we rejoin the others? They are just about to take their own preventatives but they don’t know it yet. But I want you to stay near to either Dr. Salzston or myself during the evening, just in case an issue might arise later.”
“Of course, Glory. Of course.”
We rejoined the huge number of people assembled in the great hall already holding their individual glasses of sparkling wine in their hands. Father was standing on the stairs as he proposed the happy birthday salute to the imps sweetly nestled within each of Marguerite’s sturdy arms.
“May the Gods bless,” the voices rang in unison and as was tradition, each guest upturned their glass and drank the contents. I motioned to Marguerite to take the babies upstairs then motioned to Connor that all was proceeding to plan. A huge smile spread over his face as he nodded recognition.
The next few minutes were a bizarre mix of confusion and minor chaos. For the most part, turned victims exhibited the same symptoms as Sir Ryan had earlier. The full spectrum included everything from wakened catatonia to downright fainting dead-away. The Kirani were recording it all.
We had all decided beforehand to let Father explain to the crowd all of the basics without getting into too many explicit details. Connor would assist in this task by offering any in-depth explanation that anyone might insist upon. That would give me plenty of time to sneak upstairs, tuck my babies into bed, and kiss them goodnight.
“Babies safely tucked in for the evening?” Aran asked me upon my return.
“Yes, indeed. And I see all goes well here? No casualties, per se?"
“Hmmm… some departed because of the news -- that was to be expected. That witch Sharee Mulholland and her emasculated little excuse of a husband left. That took care of about eighty-five percent of Athkatla’s gossips,” he smirked. "But I well imagine by morning, she will have put forth to anyone who will listen her less-than-flattering assessment of the evening's events. Needless to say, there will be no gratitude expressed that you might have saved her life, whether it worth saving, or not, being an entirely other issue." He smirked again.
“Aran, you’re starting to sound like a fishwife yourself,” I chided him. “You should be more charitable.”
“Madam, if I were charitable, I’d be out of business,” he snorted.
Suddenly an ear-splitting scream was heard from the top of the stairs. We all looked up in unison to see a bloody, gnarled-faced, woman touched by madness pulling at her hair. It was Marguerite.
“Oh, my Gods.. My children! MY BABIES!!” I raced up the stairs as my heart plummeted.
Mothers just know these things.
To Be Continued...............
Edited by MorningGlory, 08 October 2012 - 04:35 AM.