Part 4 : There and Back Again
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Posted 27 October 2002 - 05:54 PM
Twilight 4 : There and Back Again
Vierna DeVir leant back in the chair in the main room of the 'The Smiling Camel', placing herself as much in the shade as possible. Calimport knew warm days, but this one was exceptionally hot. Fanning herself with a piece of paper, Vierna tried to keep cool, but wasn't quite succesful. Instead of her leather suit and tunic which she normally wore under her armor, Vierna had decided to wear a loose fitting caftan to avoid fainting from the intense sun outside.
"How do you do it, Daoud?" Vierna asked, when she saw the kindly innkeeper pass by in his normal clothes. "How do you just walk around in this heat like it's nothing?"
"Oh, memsahib Vierna," Daoud chuckled. "When you've lived in the desert as long as I have, a little heat doesn't bother you as much. You look like you could use another frosty beverage, though."
"Yes, please," Vierna pleaded. "When I told my mother I was travelling to Calimport next, she told me : 'Child, Drow do not belong in the desert. It is against our very nature.' I wish I'd paid more attention," Vierna said, mimicking the throaty and melodious voice of her mother.
"Well, the Drow did conquer great part of Calimport a long time ago ago," Daoud said. "But even then they stayed mostly underground."
"Now I know what the lower levels of Gehenna must feel like," Lenny sighed as he slowly stumbled off the stairs. "Where's the rest at?"
"Shivon is in the backroom, still counting the reward money. He took over from Glyill, who is napping up in her room," Vierna said, referring to the reward the Caliph had given Vierna and her friends for exposing Grand Vizier Suleiman and saving his youngest daughter Fatima. Vierna smiled inwardly when she recalled how the Caliph had berated Fatima for risking her own life as well as those of others, and had grounded her until 'the Tanar'ri and the Baatezu would live together as brothers'.
All members of the Carhelian Circle were arrested, just as the nobles who had financed the movent. Suleiman's estate was seized by the crown to be auctioned off. And, last but not least, the Caliph Harun el Poessah had offered Vierna and her friends a sizable reward of 75000 gold coins, and they were also allowed keep the Bag of Holding Suleiman had filled with gold and coins before his escape as a bonus.
"Brimstone?" Lenny chuckled.
"Lying in the sun in Daoud's backyard. He's really enjoying himself," Vierna grimaced. "The heat didn't do Gerty much either. She's still as active as always... Come to think of it, the cold of Icewind Dale didn't do much to her either..."
"Ah, Icewind Dale," Lenny said, while closing his eyes and dreaming away. "I am SOOOO there..."
"I'm not," Vierna grimaced. "Poor brimstone almost froze to death..."
Then, Vierna noticed the sun, which was pouring in through several of the inn's small windows, had shifted dangerously close to the table she was sitting at. The fiery rays had the intensity of a fireball and Vierna decided to pick another free table.
Just then, the door slammed open and a slighty panicy gnome stormed in.
"ACK!" Vierna shouted as she felt the gust of boiling air enter the relatively cool inn. "Close the damn door!"
"Hey!" Gerty shouted. "I just saw a cat-man! A CAT-MAN!"
"What are you on about now?" Lenny sighed.
"I was walking the marketsquare looking for some fresh turnips, when I suddenly heard 'meeeeeeeeooooowwwww'," Gerty said with a raspy voice, "from behind me! So I turn around and there's a cat standing on two legs, just as tall as me!"
"Desert fever?" Lenny asked Vierna.
"I guess I spoke too soon," Vierna agreed.
"I am not CRAZY!" Gerty stressed. "I may be a little mad, but I am NOT crazy! I saw that cat-man!"
"So, what was the cat-man doing?" Lenny asked. "Licking his fur?"
"No, no, nonononononononono," Gerty stammered. "He was trying to sell me a woodcarving of a leopard!"
"So?" Lenny asked. "What's wrong with that?"
"Oh, wise up man!" Gerty shouted. "This is a government thing! The Calimsham Caliphite has been experimenting with cat-people since the fifties! They're looking to create a WHOLE race of catwarriors!"
"Fried brain..." Lenny said and shook his head.
"Look, where did you get that idea in the first place?" Vierna asked with concern.
"Well, for one thing, the cat-man was standing in front of a shop called 'Dr. Cranium's House of Mad Science'!" Gerty shouted.
"That doesn't prove..." Lenny started.
"Come with me that, he-who-wouldn't-know-a-turnip-if-it-lands-on-his-head!" Gerty challenged.
"In this heat? Not a chance!" Lenny said.
"Oh, yeah?" Gerty said, her eyes narrowed. "Afraid I'll prove you wrong?"
"Better go with her, Len," Vierna smiled apologetically. "Or you'll never live it down."
Lenny sighed heavily and followed a smugly smiling Gerty out the door, into the oven that was Calimport. Vierna relaxed again, closed her eyes and dreamt away. A few moments later, a rather foul odor penetrated her nostrils. She opened her eyes again and noticed that Daoud and Kasim, the kobold musician, were sniffing around as well. Vierna groaned as the source of the smell entered the inn, wearing a smug grin.
"Tipper Quickfist," Vierna muttered in disgust.
"That's my name, DeVir," Tipper said. "Don't wear it out... I just came back from the Muzad, little girl. Doing a MAN's job... clearing out the Umberhulks from the woodworks."
"Congratulations," Vierna muttered and looked around to see Tipper's Toadies. "New faces," Vierna remarked. "Some missing..."
"Yeah, well," Tipper snorted. "Some are more worthy adventurers than others... But we have found replacements."
"You left them there?!" Vierna asked in outrage. "You left your friends to rot in a stinking tunnel?"
"Hey, do you know how much a resurrection costs, DeVir?" Tipper snarled. "There won't be any reward-money left to celebrate our victory with!"
"You never cease to amaze me, Tipper," Vierna shook her head.
"Yeah, I am a marvelous man, aren't I?" Tipper smiled, totally misunderstanding her meaning.
"Nope..." Vierna snickered. "Do you realize you are emitting a foul and unpleasant odor?"
"Huh?" Tipper asked.
"You stink like sweat!" Vierna chuckled. "I could smell your armpits from across the street!"
"Can't take the heat, DeVir?" Tipper asked. "I had expected no less from a little chit like you. Sweat is a manly odor, child. It cleanses the body."
"Have you tried cleansing your rump with water, instead?" Vierna giggled.
"Impudent child!" Tipper snarled. "One day, I will follow in my father's footsteps and kiss this adventuring crap goodbye!"
"Ah!" Vierna giggled. "I'm sure you'd make an excellent milkman!"
"A WARLORD!" Tipper snarled. "My father was a vicious warlord!"
"Ey?" one of Tipper's less-than-intelligent buddies remarked. "I thought your dad was a tax-collector?"
"SHUT UP!" Tipper snarled. "Point is," he said, once again directed at Vierna, "I have slain powerful enemies and gained much glory while you have been sitting around here all day being a lazy little girl."
"For your information," Vierna grinned evilly, "My friends and I have foiled a Coup d'Etat, exposed a secret organisation and its leader, which was nonother than the Grand Vizier."
Tipper said nothing, and stared at Vierna with open mouth.
"You're catching flies," Vierna grinned. "Let me give you a little advice, Tipper. Don't get yourself a squad of powerful adventurers. Get yourself a team of good friends..."
"Upstage me?! Tipper Quickfist?! You haven't heard the last of me, DeVir!" Tipper snarled and motioned his friends to leave the inn.
"Bye, bye, guy." Vierna giggled.
"Thoroughly unpleasant fellow," Daoud said, while Kasim blew angry-sounding tones with his flute.
"Quite," the deep, mysterious voice of Glyill sounded from the stairs. "I know his type. He will not forget this insult."
"Oh, let's just say I won't lose any sleep over it, Gly," Vierna chuckled.
"I have been going over this list of magical ingredients we got from Suleiman's wizard, like you asked me," Glyill said. "It contains elements which are easy to come by, but others are rare and there are even some I have never heard of. None are poisonous, however. I suggest a learned wizard take a look at this."
"Need help?" Daoud said. "My cousin Rabba is the principal wizard of the Calimport University. I will ask him if he can shed some light on that little scroll of paper."
"Gee, can you ask him to come here?" Vierna asked. "I really don't look forward to having my brains baked. At least there's wind in the desert..."
"We will go see him tonight!" Daoud said.
"And you, Glyill," Vierna said. "How can you be wearing that black leather catsuit in this heat?"
"Oh, it's no trouble," Glyill shrugged. Just then, a sheepish looking Gerty and an angry paladin re-entered the inn.
"Back so soon?" Vierna asked.
"Yes...." Lenny said calmly. "Gerty? Care to tell your friends what your 'cat-man' was?"
"Just..." Gerty stammered. "Just a fat little kobold... with a lot of hair... and a severe identity-crisis..."
"GUYS!" the door to the backroom flew open, and out stormed Shivon in a state of severe agitation. "GUYS! I've finished counting our money..."
"Cool!" Gerty rubbed her hands. "How much?"
"You'd better sit down for this," Shivon said. "After adding everything, and calculating the value of the golden objects, I come to a total off... 1.248.659 gold coins. Give or take a silver..."
After a moment of utter silence, Gerty was the first to speak up. "WAHOO!" she shouted in joy. "I'm RICH! I'm WEALTHY! I'm SOCIALLY SECURE!"
"WHAT DO YOU MEAN WE'RE NOT KEEPING THE MONEY!?" Gerty shouted at Vierna.
"We can't keep it," Vierna said calmly.
"THINK OF ALL THE TURNIPS WE COULD BUY! And all the other stuff we couldn't afford to buy before, like... love! And honor!" she tried.
"Nope..." Vierna repeated calmly.
"I agree with Vierna," Lenny said. "We did not become adventurers because we wanted to get rich. We became adventurers to make this world a little better and for fun as well, but not to get rich. Otherwise, we might as well be like Tipper Quickfirst."
"Well, yeah... But... money..." Gerty whimpered.
"We will make outselves a target to every thief and scoundrel in the city," Glyill added.
"There is that, but... it's money!" Gerty tried desperately.
"There are a lot of poor people in this city that could use money too, Gerty," Lenny said. "The temple of Lathander sets up programs to find employment for impovished people and to make sure no one gets thrown out of their home."
"The temple of Ilmater takes care of the sick and injured," Glyill said. "And I, as a cleric of the Crying God, cannot in good conscience own a million gold coins without helping the temple take care of those people."
"Oh, a GREAT time for our ex-assassin to develop a conscience," Gerty shook her head.
"I've never seen so much money in my life," Shivon said. "But I'm sure we don't need any of it. I already have what I most desire," he said while he put his arm around Vierna's shoulders, who smiled at him in return.
"It's decided then," Vierna said. "We keep the original reward, and donate the rest to the temples of Lathander and Ilmater..."
"Just... just let me hold it for a while," Gerty muttered while hugging the gigantic bag of coins.
"Sorry, Gerty," Vierna smiled apologetically, "but we have a meeting with Daoud's cousin Rabba..."
Though the night was still balmy, it was mercifully cooler than the rest of the day. Vierna and her friends followed the kindly innkeeper Daoud through the imposing structures of the Calimport University until they came to a relatively small building. After Daoud had knocked on the door, another man who was almost Daoud's mirror image, up to the grey hairs in his bushy beard, appeared in the doorway. After the necessary introductions, Vierna and her friends were led in the small building, which served as lab and home of Rabba. Scrolls, books and magical items were stern across the home haphazardly, and after some careful navigation, all sat down at the dinnertable where Rabba offered them all a frosty beverage.
"Where were you this morning?" Vierna chuckled as she gulped down the drink.
After explaining the situation, Vierna handed Rabba the list. After looking it over for a couple of minutes, rubbing his chin intently and repeating the word 'hmmmm' over and over, Rabba offered his first suggestion.
"I haven't a clue what this does," he finally says.
"Great!" Gerty snickered.
"You misunderstand," Rabba said. "These are only the physical components of the spell. But with the right wording, it'll do anything from destroying Calimsham entirely, or heal a massive massive army..."
"It is that powerful?" Lenny asked.
"Well, you see. Most of the ingredients in here can be used to enhance the power of a spell itself. The skunk juice, rose petal essence and crowfeathers are well known enhancers, but there are also some very rare items on the list. Most ingredients seem to be necromantic in origin. Some ingredients are really unique though, and I have no idea what the human and demi-human hearts would serve for. It is obvious that someone has gone through great lengths and spared no expense to do spell research, though," Rabba muttered.
"No to mention having the power to fry an ex-employee from the inside," Gerty chuckled.
"Does it give you any clues as to who is the caster?" Glyill asked. "Sometimes you can tell by the way the spells are crafted. It is a trick I have often used to track down wizards during my career as an assassin."
"I am sorry, but no," Rabba said. "There's no way to tell... all I can say is that this spell could have a widespread effect. But I have no idea what it could be without having an excerpt of the wording of the enchantment."
"Damn," Vierna said. "We're back to square one."
"Maybe not," Rabba said. "You see, it is possible to use the same ingredients to make a counter-spell to the spell it was originally intended to be. And some of these ingredients are so rare they're practically one-of-a-kind..."
"So if we get them first," Shivon said.
"Mister Fry-Guy won't have them!" Gerty shouted.
"There are about fifty items on the list, most of which can be bought in the city, but there are eight items that are harder to come by. The hearts you already have... Let's cover them one by one. You will need a scale from a brown dragon," Rabba said.
"Dragon?" Gerty snorted. "This is getting better and better."
"Dragons have been very rare in the Calimshite desert," Daoud spoke up. "Two thousand years before the Dale Reckoning, Ylveraasahlisar the Rose Dragon conquered and ruled Calimport for hundreds of years. Eventually, the opressed people of Calimport managed to overthrow her reign, and with the help of the genies, every dragon was driven from the Calishite desert and the Marching Mountains. Dragons have been rare ever since, but I have heard tales of an ancient brown dragon still living on the edge of the desert, near the city of Amketran."
"Then there is this : Water from the Fountain of Forgetfulness," Rabba added.
"Sounds gloomy," Shivon said.
"Yes," Daoud said. "About a thousand years ago, the small village of Handratta was famous for it's fountain of forgetfulness. Old soldiers not being able to live with themselves, ancient tyrants, remorseful brigands, people not being able to life with an old pain... these all came to the city to drink from its unique waters. Unfortunately, the goddess Shar saw this little village as competition and not only had her followers destroy it, but also cursed the town. Handratta was devoured by a sandstorm and never heard from again. Legend speaks of mountains of gold and disgusting undead, but everyone who goes in search of the city, tends to never return."
"Then there is the Flower of the Nightstalker, a variant of nightshade, which growns underground. I know of a source, deep in the lower levels of the Muzad," Rabba said. "I will have to do some research to find out more."
"Quite a trip," Vierna grinned.
"Another item is a Skull of an Aboleth, a very rare creature, reputed to live in underwater caverns. Very dangerous, very cunning," Rabba said.
"Gee, why can't spell-components be a little simpler like 'tail of mouse'?" Lenny asked.
"Ever try catching one?" Gerty smirked.
"The other items are a Staff of Deceit, a Fruit of a Demontree and a Flechette of DarkDust, but I have no idea what they are. I will do yet more research..."
"In the meantime," Vierna started gleefully.
"Oh, no," Gerty snickered. "She's getting that glint in her eyes again!"
"It looks like we have a scavenger-hunt to do!" Vierna giggled.
Well, aside from just having saved Calimport from an evil vizier, me and my friends are going on a little trip to find some rare spell-components. Apparently, something sinister is going on in Calimsham, and we are going to get to the bottom of it! And yes, momma, I am eating properly and getting plenty of sleep...
How's Valas, by the way? I heard he has just written a play about you and daddy's first travels! I hope you weren't too mad at him! Me, I can't wait until the play starts touring across Faerun and can get to see it!
Give my love to daddy, Valas, Rauva and aunty Imoen,
You loving daughter,
P.S. Did you like the tapestry? I hope so...
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