“Okay, let me get this straight. We’ve got the Rule of Three trying to burn us down before we even take off, and now some guy named ‘The Falcon’ is demanding his cut of the profits from the cruises you guys want to run?” I shake my head as I sip my coffee. “For the love of profit… you people really need to beef up your security if you’re going to take this venture seriously.”
I doodle idly on a napkin until an idea strikes me. “You know… with a properly worded contract we could not only keep him happy, but have him run security and still make a profit off of him in the long run.”
Sure, they moan and groan every time I start talking legal speak… but believe it or not, I’m actually trying to help these naive people. If they don’t get their heads out of the clouds we’re going to be too busy defending our ship from disgruntled thugs and thieve’s guilds to get any customers. Heh… they should try to start a business in Ribcage… then they’d know what I’m talking about. But whatever… let them have their fun… they’ll see when they’re ready to look… and finally believe when they can see.
“I’m going to go secure my rooms anyway… maybe I can get some good warding scrolls to keep people out of my labs.” I toss a few silver on the table and head out into a blessedly overcast morning.
By the time night falls my scroll cases are full and I’m ready for a very strong drink. The shadows multiply at night… it’s getting very hard to sleep when all I can hear is that damn slithering grating over my soul like an exposed nerve. Just get me to the bar and I will be fine… I slap a smile on the best I can as I walk into the now-stocked bar of our ship, dodging staff running about with arms full of linen and decorations.
Oh Gods… the party.
So many people… how can they not hear it? I run my nails roughly across my scalp and take comfort in the pain that helps me focus and walk towards the bar. It’s almost a constant background noise to me anymore… like it’s always just behind me and out of my line of sight, waiting to tap my shoulder and call me to my fate.
I’m sure they’ll hear it soon enough.
“Give me your strongest,” I declare as I slap down a suitable tip for the bartender. I’ll have to commend Hodey for this addition… it’s much easier to stumble home down a hallway then it is down a street.
“Aye-aye, one 9 Hells coming up,” he replies as he pulls out some protective gloves.
Once he’s done he hands over a thick glass mug with 9 different layers of alcohol… amongst other things. I’m amazed that he managed to maintain the bubbling and smoking. I’ll have to give him another tip if I’m still conscience by the time I finish this.
“Yes-s-s-s-s….” I breathe as I cup it lovingly and inhale the burning fumes. “This will do nicely.”
2 hours later… I think…
“I’m not da one whoish crazy, now. I’m da one whoish mad! Thish world’s crazy… whale ships, impending doom… bah! Only da book maksh sensh anymore.” I stumble off the stool and just manage to catch myself from falling down. “Gonna go to bed. Now.”
Blissful unmoving darkness… the comforting touch of a mother’s embrace…
“Hey, Katya! I brought you some warm milk to help you sleep!”
“Go to Hell, Constance.” I mutter into my pillow.
“We’re all worried about you, so I’m going to stand here and sing until you let me in.”
The fading images of my mother’s smile have now been replaced with Constance worbling like a turkey. Damn that meddling woman! I mutter a few different curses I picked up in Infernal as I open the door, giver her and her glass of milk my best death stare, pull out a cricket from my pouch, and with a crunch between my fingers fall blissfully back to sleep in a heap on the floor.
Who knows how many hours I was out… but for once I think I actually slept. Maybe that’s the key… I should make some sleeping potions instead of relying on the alcohol. At least I won’t have to do my reading with a hangover anymore.
I stretch and start to make the bed… reflexively checking under the mattress to make sure…that… that… suddenly the mattress is flung across the room by my braids as I stare at the empty spot that used to contain my book. My fingers clench into fists and my mind races before settling on the glass of milk still waiting at my bedside.
Constance. A quick sniff of it reveals more than disgusting baby fluid from bovines… the blasted thing was drugged!
“That coniving little do-gooder… she just doesn’t know when to keep out of things, does she? We’ll show her what happens when people mess with my stuff!” I grab my head in pain as the slithering grows louder. “I’ll…we’ll…”
“Um… you okay, Kat? I heard noises…”
I take a deep breath and plaster on my best grin as I crack open the door to find Waylond with hat in hand looking worried.
“Perfectly fine, Waylond. I just need to see Constance for a sec. Do you think you could take me to her?”
“If you’re sure you’re okay…”
“Couldn’t be better… I slept quite well, actually.” Keep smiling… he can’t hear it… “So please… take me to Constance.”
I follow the Giff into the helm room to find Constance going over her maps of the star systems and begin muttering the incantation for a Charm spell under my breath. I smile for true as she stiffens and turns to me. “Oh Constance… be a dear and get me the book you stole from my room last night, would you?”
“Yes… Katya…” she replies woodenly as she leaves the room.
“Connie, what are you doing? You said you wanted to take the book because she’s sick!”
I grin even wider at Waylond as Constance returns with the book in hand. “But I’m not sick, Waylond. I’m perfectly fine… other than finding out that the people I thought were my friends tried to drug me and steal from me.” I turn to Constance and flip open the book to one of my favorite parts; it has rather detailed illustrations.
“Now READ IT,” I instruct her coldy as I stab at the page with my nail. “You just had to be curious… never even crossed your mind to just ask me, did it? READ IT!”
“I’m gonna go tell the others,” Waylond says worriedly and quickly leaves. Just as well, really… he wasn’t the one who tried to drug me.
Constance’s eyes widen and her hair starts to fly about her in aggitation. Good… maybe if her ghosts don’t like it, they’ll have enough sense to stop her the next time she decides to interfere with things she doesn’t understand.
“I feel funny…” she mumbles.
“Yeah, that’s what happens when you’re exposed to dangerous magics and forbidden knowledge… and that’s exactly why I kept it hidden from all of you! As soon as you see them…. they start to see you.” With a sigh of resignation I drop the spell and take the book back into my sheltering embrace.
“It’s become clear now that the book is no longer safe here. As much as it pains me… I’m going to have to give this to someone who can appreciate and safeguard the knowledge it contains. If the ship is gone when I get back, I will understand.”
And with that I leave the confused Constance and head into the city with disguise in place. Perhaps one of the churches might be suitable. I laugh to myself. If I tried one of the lawful gods like Cuthbert the book AND I would both probably burst into flames. Hmmn… so that leaves… Boccob the God of Magic. Yes…that sounds good.
I fight the urge to keep looking over my shoulder as I grip the book tighter and make my way up the marble steps. A shambling old man comes out of the shadows of an alcove mumbling in strange tongues. I try to identify his words… but it’s like he’s speaking all languages at once… and none. A gleam of silver catches my eye as I lean in to listen. The symbol of Vecna! That dread necromancer… didn’t he end up fighting the gods themselves?
“THE BOOK!” the old man hisses suddenly and I step back in surprise. “Give me THE BOOK!”
I let my disguise drop for a moment and hiss back at the old man… fangs bared and hair shaking like snakes about me head. “It’s MINE to GIVE!” I yell and quickly make my way up the stairs… sighing as I finally cross the threshold.
If Venca wants this…no…no… I must give it to someone who can keep it safe. These people won’t get rid of it, will they? No… knowledge like this is much to precious!
…I wonder if I can get some good scrolls for it in trade?