Part 13 : A shady deal...
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Posted 27 October 2002 - 06:14 PM
Twilight 13 : A shady deal...
Ginafae Esz'Razz, caretaker of the city of Thalranink'lar and master of the city's militia/tradepolice... stirred in her hammock spun between the two pillars above her desk in her office. Sleep did not come to her this time, and she settled for merely lazying about and suckling at the straw in her drink at regular intervals. The office was dark and quiet, yet the warm hearth next to her desk made it a cozy place for naps. Closing her eyes, she decided to try her hand and sweet sleep again.
"Hey, Gin!" the shrill voice of her male deputy Rizzen Gry'zzer echoed through the darkstone office and rang into Ginafae's ears.
"Can't talk," Ginafae replied, "sleeping..."
"Gin, it's time for the rounds!" Rizzen replied. "Come on, you know how much you hate merchants! It'll cheer you up..."
"You're awake. I know you are awake," Rizzen replied.
"How do you know I am awake?"
"Well, you talking to me is a big giveaway," Rizzen chuckled.
"How do you know I'm not talking in my sleep?" Ginafae replied, her eyes still closed.
"Well, you're replying to my questions for one thing," Rizzen smiled.
"How do you know I'm not replying to you in my sleep?" Ginafae smiled, still with eyes tightly shut.
"Come on!" Rizzen said and prodded at the hammock, sadly overestimating its stability. The hammock tipped and launched Ginafae downwards like a Drow projectile without a helmet. A short yelp, a crash and a whole lot of foul expletives later, Ginafae stood up, glaring at her smiling deputy.
Ginafae was tall, even for a Drow, and towered over the relatively small male. Even though her demeanor was one of mild manneredness and good humor, most of the merchants of the city regarded her as a demon from the deepest pit of the Abyss. She wore the standard Copper-colored mithril chainmail, finished with several extra adornments to signify her rank and status. Her long white hair was lined with silver streaks and was tied into a long, thick braid which was so long, that the thick knot at the end slightly dragged behind her as she walked.
"Say," Rizzen snickers. "You're looking rather bloated today. When are you expecting?"
"Well," Ginafae chuckled. "If it's a girl, I'll call her Quile after my mother. And if it's a boy, I'll call him Nalfein after my father... but if it's, as I expect, a load of gas trapped there since last night's dinner, I'll call it Rizzen, after YOU!"
"Yikes," Rizzen sighed.
"Quite," Ginafae grinned. "I really have to stop eating all those spicy dishes..."
"Remind me not to stand next to you at the upcoming parade, then," Rizzen grimaced.
"Well, I could always bust you back down to the regular city-patrol, if you prefer," Ginafae smiled.
"It shall be an honor to stand next to you at the upcoming parade!" Rizzen said and stood at attention.
"Good," Ginafae said, whipping her head around as she prepared for her rounds. Rizzen just managed to duck to avoid being hit by her swooping braid. "I'll be off. Mind the gaol, please..."
"Errr, Gin?" Rizzen said as Ginafae strode towards the door of her office.
"Your braid is on fire," he said.
Ginafae looked as saw that the knot at the end of her braid was smoldering. "Stupid hearth," she said while stamping out the fire. "That's the fourth time this tenday!"
That said, she stopped out the door and proceeded to the entrance of the gaol. After shutting the door of the building she was proud to say was the scariest looking one in the whole city, she walked down the stairs... only to be yanked by the back of her head and fell flat on her back. Glancing over to the door, she noticed that her braid was caught under it. "Hope nobody saw that," Ginafae muttered to herself, collected her braid and went on her rounds.
"I don't know," Vierna told her mother in the confines of her own room at the Drunken Spider. It was a large inn. Not the largest in town, according to her mother, but the one that offers the most comfort and security. Instead of several separate rooms, they had decided to hire one large single room on the third floor which not only contained six beds, but also left room for several closets, a bath and a large balcony overlooking part of the city. As with common Drow architecture, this inn was constructed from bricks made of black lavastone radiating very little heat.
"So you just went crazy, you say?" her mother looked upon her with concern.
"When Brimstone was hit with that spear," Vierna said while glancing over to the Hell-hound, who was peacefully sleeping on a rug in front of the warm fire, "I just lost it and started hacking into that aboleth... Scared the hell out of me, really."
"And now you're afraid that your heritage has caught up with you?" Viconia chuckled.
"Yeah," Vierna replied, "but it's nothing to laugh about!"
"Let me put it this way," Viconia smiled, "did you have any dreams about slaughter, power, blood, murder and leading armies to reign destruction on the lands?"
"And do you ever get urges to kill, maim and destroy everyone in sight?"
"Have you ever had the urge to slit you lover's throat in his sleep?"
"Have you ever heard a deep, disembodied voice speak to you at inopportune moments, urging you to seek divinity?"
"Then there's nothing to worry about!" Viconia smiled. "Your friend was hurt and you reacted with rage! Simple as that! There no need for the essence of Bhaal for that. The last time Jan dropped by, he showed Rauva and me his newly invented eggpicker which not only picked the clothes off my body, but also crushed the roof of Rauva's chicken-hutch."
"Ouch," Vierna said, remembering how much Rauva loves her chickens.
"Your sister chased Jan around for about an hour, brandishing a broomstick," Viconia chuckled, "but later at dinner, they were lovingly chatting and telling stories again..."
"So... Maybe I was being paranoid about that Bhaalblood stuff," Vierna and stepped to the balcony to lean on the railing. "I would have never been able to deal with that as well as dad did."
"You don't know that," Viconia smiled as she followed her daughter outside. "I think you have the strength of character to have resisted it..."
"I don't know," Vierna replied, "but in any case, I would love to come home soon and stay there for a long time. And since you revealed that there's a little sister on the way, I've made up my mind. Rauva and I were never close because I was so eager to set out and adventure... I don't want to make the same mistake twice, and... well, I can make up for last time with Rauva too... But, what about my friends?"
"Well, there's more than enough to do in and around Amn," Viconia chuckled. "It seems that all the dungeons your father and I painstakingly cleaned out are riddled with monsters once more. Did you know a cult of sun worshippers have moved into the Windspear Dragon Caves? There's more than enough to do there, and you can made De'Arnise Keep your base of operations for the time being..."
"I'd love that," Vierna smiled. "And, OH!" Vierna suddenly giggled.
"What?" Viconia asked and looked to see what Vierna was laughing at.
"Oh, my," Viconia shook her head as she noticed a Drow woman lying flat on her back when her braid seemed to have gotten caught between the double doors leading into the city gaol. "That's Ginafae Esz'Razz, captain of the guard and military mayor of the town."
"Military mayor?" Vierna asked.
"Yes, there are three mayors in Thalranink'lar," Viconia said. "One military, one Trade and one residing over the Nexus. But that does not matter since her voice weighs strongest, especially since none of the merchants in this town are not allowed to have more than ten armed guards in their service. But Ginafae is the most feared woman in the city..."
"What?!" Vierna chuckled. "But she tripped over her own braid!"
"She has full control over the city militia, and keeps trade fair and healthy by making sure all the trade-rules are adhered to," Viconia said. "And very strictly, I might add. It's a simple system : Three violations and a business must close its doors for a whole year, which almost always means bankruptcy. This policy is accepted by all the other Drow communities, because this city is the economic life-blood of the Drow race..."
"I guess even fanatical devotion to an evil spider goddess only goes so far," Vierna snickered.
"In some Drow communities," Viconia smirked, "the choice is simple : Perfect adherence to the tenets of Lolth, pitting against eating at regular intervals. The choice is simple..."
"Still, she doesn't look so scary to me," Vierna said while the woman with the long braid confidently strolled through the harbor front of the city.
"Well, the rumor goes that she's an immortal demi-goddess, created by a liaison between Vhaerun and a female Drow assassin... but she also incorruptible, because she hates merchants with a passion. I'm not kidding, the last time someone tried to bribe her, she had the merchant tarred and feathered before blasting him out of the city though the Nexus-gates. And there are also plenty of instances where she fined merchants for the smallest of offences."
"I see," Vierna said.
"But enough about her," Viconia said. "What are the last ingredients you need for this mysterious spell?"
"Oh, shop talk!" Vierna chuckled. "Well, we still need the Staff of Deceit, the Fletchette of Darkdust and the Fruit of the Demon-tree. Shall we go look for them?"
"You won't find those items in the shops," Viconia smiled. "But, fortunately, I know where to look... And, no, you can't come..."
"Trust me on this one..."
Viconia slowly stepped into the narrow, darkened alley which in turn belonged to a short, dimly lit street filled with all manner of warehouses at the docks. Moving slowly, as she had done before, she stood in the middle of the alley, facing the dead end of the alley, like all the customers were meant to.
"Do not turn around," she heard the lisping male voice behind her.
"I know the deal, Nym," Viconia replied. "I have bought items with you before..."
"Ah, Viconia... DeVir, is it not?" Nym replied. "So, tell me, did the Matron of House Teken'Duis enjoy her, ahum, explosive gift..."
"She was never quite the same afterwards," Viconia smirked, making sure the amusement reached Nym's ear. "Too bad it could not save our House in the end..."
"How can this humble merchant be of service to you this time?" Nym asked.
"I see three items of magical power : The Staff of Deceit, the Fletchette of Darkdust and the Fruit of the Demon-tree."
"Odd," Nym replied. "You are not the first person to come to me with that request..."
"Oh?" Viconia replied, instantly cursing herself for this slip of the tongue. Deciding it was too late to play it tactfully, she decided to press the issue. "Could you... describe this person?"
"My memory needs refreshing..." was the simple reply.
Without saying a word, Viconia fished a small diamond from her pouch and put it one a sloped stone ledge at her side. The diamond rolled down the ledge to be picked up a few seconds later.
"Ah, yes... It's coming back to me now," Nym replied. "He was human, for a start. Smelled like a rothe that had been left lying dead for three months. Quite large, fighter-type. Not very bright either."
"You have a reputation of only dealing with other Drow," Viconia replied. "Has that changed?"
"No, it has not..." Nym replied. "But he told me his master would be quite appreciative. Of course, I sent him on his way. He was quite rude during the whole exchange, but what do you expect from a human?"
"Interesting," Viconia muttered.
"But I will, of course, deal with you, my dear Viconia," Nym replied. "You and your former house were always loyal customers, so I'll be happy to supply you with what you need. But... you'll need more than mere coins to procure these rare items..."
"A trade then?" Viconia asked.
"Yes," Nym replied. "I will give you the items in exchange for a box filled with Chromatic Chiatare Gems... Fortunately," Nym replied before Viconia could protest, "I know where you could, ahum, liberate them..."
"This can be done bloodlessly?" Viconia asked. "My daughter would never approve otherwise."
"But she won't be opposed to what they can be used for?" Nym asked. "But, no matter. The gems are held in the estate of Trade Mayor Azxun'n. A break-in can be bloodless, I suppose. Do we have a deal?"
"We are in agreement..."
'Oh, yeah, bright idea, Shivon,' the young elven mage thought to himself as he made his way through town after having bought a surprise for his girlfriend : A freshly baked pie. 'It's always VERY smart to go trumping about a city filled with members of the most dangerous enemy of your race and then taking a short-cut through a dark alley.'
Shivon glanced around fearfully at the shadow play on the wall, just waiting for something to jump out at him. In the distance, he could see the inviting exit to the dark alley, giving way to a lighted streets where many people of all races were walking, looking for things to buy.
'Almost there!' Shivon sighed in relief. 'Almost th...'
"Hey, look!" A voice sounded behind him. Spinning around, Shivon saw five young Drow, two female, three male approach him. They were dressed in leather armor, but looked on more than twenty years of age. The female that had spoken was apparently the leader, and she seemed as if she had been in plenty of fights before.
"A loathsome surface-elf has dared to cross our path!" the female grinned like a shark. "Hey, ELF! This is our turf, and we don't want any stinking elves here!" she shouted, backed up with 'yeah's, 'that's right's and 'stinking elf's.
"I don't want any trouble," Shivon stammered.
"Well," the female snickered and drew a long serrated knife, "I think I'm going to slice you into ribbons and watch you bleed... I'll cut you long," she smiled as Shivon backed towards the wall, "I'll cut you hard and I'll cut you deep..."
"HEY!" another female, older this time, appeared from the mouth of the alley. "Bladen'Kerst, isn't it supper-time? You should be home by now!"
"But..." the would-be mugger Bladen'Kerst stammered, while her gang dispersed into the shadows.
"And you should know better than to play tough with passer-by's!" the older female, dressed in a copper uniform wearing her hair in an enormously long braid spoke. "Can't you see this elf is a mage? He would have blasted you into oblivion!"
"Gee, mister," Bladen'Kerst spoke, for the first time with a hint of humility in her voice. As the would-be mugger stepped from the shadows, he noticed her knife was actually made out of wood, and that her thin knife-scars were actually make-up, "would you really have blasted me into oblivion?"
"Errr, emmm, ah... Eee... Yeah?" was Shivon's 'convincing' reply.
"Wow," Bladen'Kerst spoke, "I'm sorry..."
"Run along now," the braided female spoke, "your mother will be angry if you're late for supper... again."
"Okay!" Bladen'Kerst spoke. "Errr, please don't tell my mom about this..."
"Mum's the word," the braided female replied. Bladen'Kerst smiled briefly and belted out of the alley, heading home.
"Her mother is one of the local blacksmiths," the braided female told Shivon. "She runs her business alone, and hasn't much time for her children. Don't worry, though. I'll keep her on the straight and narrow. She'll probably make a great city-guard when she's a little older..."
"Err, thank you!" Shivon sighed in relief.
"My pleasure, move along now. Nothing to see here," the female smiled and watched the young elven mage head into the street.
'Poor kid,' the female thought to herself while she watched Shivon head toward the Drunken Spider Inn, 'He's going to be eaten alive in this town if he stays here long enough...'
"I can't believe you consented to this!" Vierna told her mother.
Shivon was still recovering from the kiss Vierna has given him as a reward for the pie, and while Vierna had been snacking from it, her mother had entered the room with the rest of Vierna's party in to... to drop a bomb of a news. She had located the necessary items, but they came at a heavy price...
"Chromatic Chiatare Gems?!" Vierna replied. "Don't you know what you can make with those gems, momma?!"
"I do," Viconia replied.
"They are an intergral part in the creation of Juggernaut Golems," Glyill spoke softly.
"I know," Viconia replied impassively. "But that is the price. Knowing Nym, it is non-negotiable... And knowing Nym, he'll probably have buyers standing by for all our items, as well as the gems..."
"What kind of back-alley legbreaker have you got us involved with!" Vierna all but snarled. "Do you know how much of those monstrosities can be made with a whole box of those gems?!"
"I don't know," Lenny broke in, "but I'm willing to bet that an army of Juggernauts is nothing compared with what this spell can do... If we ever find out WHAT it does... Sometimes you just have to settle for the lesser of two evils."
"Yeah!" Gerty added. "How do you know those Juggernauts will be used against innocent people? The wizard might construct them for guard duty, or become the principal of a school, or for the tending of the turnips! My uncle Rottweiler once hired a dragon to scare off the red-skinned four-winged turnip-crows. And Uncle Rottweiler would have made a fortune of the harvest if the drake didn't like turnips himself and ate the whole lot!"
"Gerty, you're not helping," Viconia added.
"And what do we have to do to obtain these gems?" Vierna replied while crossing her arms.
"We must break in the mansion of..."
"Oh, don't SAY it!" Vierna replied.
"Vierna, don't be so difficult!" Viconia replied, fighting to keep her rising anger down. "The simple truth is that there is NO way to get the items outside of Nym's connection, except perhaps for putting in an Order in the magic-shop and waiting for them seven years or more! This is the ONLY way we will get our hands on these items..."
"Let's put it to the vote then," Vierna sighed.
"I think we should do it," Lenny said. "I think this spell will be a lot more dangerous than those Juggernauts."
"Hey," Gerty said. "I've been dragged through a dessert, been on a wild carpet ride through the air and even made a cave collapse. I think we should see this through to the end!"
"I concur," Glyill said, while shooting Gerty a glare. "For the first in a long while..."
"You know where my vote lies," Viconia smirked.
"Judging from the components," Shivon said. "I say we find the rest of the spell so we won't be empty-handed when we find whoever is behind all this... Sorry Vierna."
"Thats okay, Shiv," Vierna sighed. "I'd see this through to the end as well..."
"Settled then?" Viconia asked.
"Settled," Vierna sighed.
A knock at the door sounded through the room, but whomever was behind the door didn't wait for an answer. Before anyone could react the door was kicked in and two orbs where thrown in.
"Hold your breath! Head to the balcony!" Viconia shouted, but it was too late. A disgustingly green gas spewed from the orbs, and before too long everyone, even Brimstone, had fallen into a very, very deep sleep.
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