Chapter the Sixteenth: Not So Gentle WomanI strolled up to the entrance of the Gentleman's Club confidantly, perhaps arrogantly. "Good day, sir. I think I'll be going in for a drink." He glared at me, recognizing me, but he repeated his memorized line nonetheless.
Pulling the slip of paper out of my pocket, I handed it to him, "Oh, but that doesn't apply to me. I've been given this special invitation, sir... from Mr. Wellington himself." I couldn't help but smile. Anybody that knew what I was like when I was younger wouldn't have been surprised in the slightest. Some things never changed.
The less pleased they are the more pleased I am. I think I'll languish here a while. "Good day to you." I blew him a kiss as I wandered past, which only seemed to enrage him further. That had been entirely the point.
All eyes were on me the moment I entered the club. The bartender kept his calm, and a particularly drunk patron next to him didn't seem in a mind to care, but the rest of them simply couldn't stop staring. One dwarven gentleman wearing a darling little suit coat tossed his paper on the nearby table and got up from his seat on the sofa. "This is an outrage! I say good day to you, MADAM." He stormed out. Why, this is fast becoming my favorite place for a drink in all Tarant. I do think I'll be coming back quite regularly.
I took the dwarf's seat and picked up the paper casually, keeping myself occupied by reading it until the club patrons mostly stopped staring at me. I preferred to be discreet and that was quite difficult when I'd just garnered myself so much attention.
A 300 coin reward was too good to pass up. Aside from just that, if I tracked the painting down I was sure to catch the eye of the local thieves guild. Joining up with them could prove incredibly profitable. I made a mental note to visit the Garringsburg residence when I finished harrassing the 'gentlemen' around me. After I'd finished reading the cover story most people had forgotten I was even there, or at least tried not to be too bothered by my presence. I got up to walk around and started chatting up the patrons, looking for any clues on the whereabouts of the skulls.
As if I didn't like this club enough already. Another 500 coins was a very welcome addition to my pocketbook, and I couldn't have earned it any easier.
Over at the back of the club an elven man shrouded deeply in a dark robe gazed out at the rest of the patrons nervously. There was something incredibly suspicious about his behavior and I was sure it had something to do with the skulls. I made sure nobody was looking as I approached him, but when I neared he quietly snapped at me.
His voice was gravelly and his tone hushed. He was definitely some kind of thief. Why must thieves always draw attention to themselves by acting so damned suspicious? Gives the lot of us a bad name it does. "Greetings. Might I ask who you are, sir?"
This girl can take care of herself, thanks. "I appreciate the tip, friend." Not really, but you have information I want and I'm going to pretend to like you until I get it.
This was just the inroad I'd been looking for. Associating with the local thieves was a fast track to easy wealth. As long as I didn't get caught, anyway. "I'd appreciate the work... I'm new around here." I could tell this elf was small time, but I hoped his job would lead me higher up in the organization. It was then that I wondered if this was all an elaborate test, beginning from the moment Doctor Gershwin had asked me to pilfer the skulls from the cemetery.
Men like this were regular customers at this 'Gentlemen's Club' yet somehow an innocent, harmless woman like me had to get nasty to be admitted. Well... maybe I'm not quite so innocent... or harmless. But the damned doorman hardly knew that! I ought to be insulted! I was getting a bit too sidetracked, so I tried to keep my mind on the topic at hand. "Clearly... what is it I need to do?"
You just can't offer to give me a mysterious note that I'm not supposed to look at the contents of. Really, that kind of trust is horribly misplaced. "I'm the woman for the job. Your secret's safe with me!" For some reason the more blatant my lies the more people tended to believe them. I took note of it.
"Good day to you." The man turned and walked out of the bar, his business concluded. Pah, what a liar. They'll never be able to tell if I just take a quick peek.
It amused me to think that the elf handed me the note honestly believing I wouldn't open it. It would take far more than empty threats to stop my curiosity. Since the contents of the note seemed to be an address I figured that was probably the location of the Siamese twin skulls. Since finding that out had been my reason for entering the club in the first place I decided it was time to relax.
"Good day to you, bartender. I'd like a shot of whiskey, please."
"Certainly, sir." He paused for only a moment, "uh... I mean madam. Sorry, it's something of a habit."
He actually sounded relatively sincere, so I forgave him his transgression. My fondness for the club and rattling its members' cages had put me in a rather forgiving mood. "You can make it up to me by telling me what's happening around Tarant lately."
I looked over at Jayna, trying to be sociable. "Now that would be a fascinating talent, wouldn't it? Getting my fortune told might be good for a laugh, eh?"
Jayna whined, "If you ask me, that kind of thing would make me nervous. If somebody really can tell my future, I don't want to know it." She had a point, but one that she could only arrive at if she first suspected anybody might actually have the ability to see the future. Her naivete made me sigh.
I ordered two more shots of whiskey and slid one over in front of her. She looked at it, then looked up at me with a rather confused expression as if to say 'you want ME to drink this?'. I continued chatting with the bartender, "Tarant's an awful big place. There's got to be more action than a couple phoney fortune tellers."
Ugh. No thanks. I'd have to be really, really desperate to go looking for that kind of work. "Sir, you forget yourself yet again."
He actually seemed truly embarrassed that time. "I do apologize once again, madam. I didn't mean to imply-"
"Think nothing of it, my good man. Just be quick with the information; what else goes on around here?"
I shrugged, "Can anybody, really? Aside from Bates? Perhaps the man ought to be given credit for at least trying."
The bartender laughed and laughed, "I can see that you haven't met him, then. Perhaps you ought to pay him a visit when you're done getting your fortune told." The dear fellow was actually starting to grow on me. I wondered why he worked in a place like this, but then again Mr. Wellington probably paid top notch for a skilled bartender.
"That sounds like-" The drunk next to me fell off his stool, shoving me quite roughly as he fell and nearly knocking me to the ground. He grabbed hold of the bar and clung to it desperately to pull himself up. I couldn't help but stare.
I wonder if this one is even aware that I'm a woman. "Who might you be?" This man was going to sleep like the dead tonight and a bit more searching at the hall of records could provide me with a rather lucrative opportunity for thievery.
That made sense. "I'm to deliver a message to you from Thom Grak." I may not have been looking to deliver that message, but then again I could probably squeeze some coins out of a job well done. It wasn't as though it really took any effort, I'd just found him by accident.
Matt looked quite confused. He picked up Jayna's shot of whiskey and tossed it down his throat. "What? Oh... uh... what does that old tosser want now?" The addition of even more alcohol into his already intoxicated body caused him to start hiccuping even worse than he already had been.
I sighed, looking away from him to lessen the smell of alcohol. Even I had my limits. "He said he's waiting at the Kensington Broadway kiosk for you."
Moderation, dear sir... moderation. "Well, my work is done. Good day." I was feeling pleasantly warm from the two drinks I'd tossed down myself, so I figured my business in the Gentlemen's Club was done... for a while, anyway.
A shout erupted from the far end of the room as a half orc thug drew a blade and ran towards the bar, "Finally, I get to kill de Cesare!" Before I could draw my own dagger I was quite rudely shoved out of the way as Matt drew a pistol from beneath his coat. He fired a single shot, the bullet striking his assailant directly between the eyes. The half orcish body crumpled onto the ground, the blade clattering across the floor. A pool of blood began to slowly spread from where the body landed.
What the hell have I gotten myself into? "What? What are you talking about?" Virgil had his quarterstaff in his hand and he was eyeing Matt's pistol nervously. I could tell he wanted to help me, but wasn't sure if it would end disastrously.
"N-no... absolutely not! I met him on the street. He asked me to do him a favor, that's it!" Matt's pistol lowered slightly and Virgil began to relax a bit as well. He gave me a rather apologetic stare, regretting that he hadn't been able to really do anything to protect me. Don't worry about it, Virgil... this one's my own damned fault.
If I couldn't resist the temptation of a simple note there was no way I'd pass this up. "Wait - what was all this about?" There was something going on and after being treated so rudely I at least deserved an answer.
This had better be good.
Bonus ContentTreatise on the Causes of Disease
"a systematic and reasoned look at our very health?
"Needless to say this is a problem that has concerned me since my days as a student at dear Tarant University. My dear mother in fact passed away from an illness only months before my arrival there. It was then that I decided to focus on the healing sciences instead of the chemical that I had previously endeavored. Shocked was I to find upon my arrival that compared to the chemical sciences the therapeutic sciences were enormously under funded! Perhaps because the science of health had less monetary worth than the science of the blunderbuss.
"Despite this I forged ahead in my studies with a drive that impressed both my fellow students and my professors. But I think they eventually became tired of my voice ceaselessly asking, 'Why?' Why is it that the fluid built so quickly in her lungs. Why was he find just this morn but in the evening had developed advanced Consumption? Why don't you have responses to questions that concern the health of every living thing in the land?
"With a lack of information available from the realms of science I turned instead, in desperation, to the realm of the arts, scouring every tome they had (But unfortunately there were not many) on disease. Most unfortunately most of this information was less than helpful. It was then that I encountered by chance the esteemed Master Barnhaus who was at this time studying at Tulla and vacationing in Tarant. It was he who told that these works were indeed useless and that what I needed was not the practice of practicing the Art but the Theory.
"It is now that I must give my deepest thanks to Master Barnhaus for I could not have made these discoveries without him. When I had told him of my difficulties in attaining works such as that in what I thought was the massive Tarantian Library he chuckled saying, 'Would you purchase swords in a Butchers shop? Then why search for spells in a place such as this?' Then with a muttered word and a sweep of the hand he whisked us both to the Hall of Knowledge in Tulla. There I gasped at the sight of a truly massive library. And devoted in large part to the theory and application of the arts.
"Here my studies became earnest an though I spent only a few months there my heartfelt appreciation must go out to everyone who helped me there, but mostly again to my dear friend Master Barnhaus. What I learned was fascinating to say the least. In this grand Library I learned of Mystical Chirugens who had spent centuries studying diseases and their cause.
"Most of the texts focused on
"When I looked through this contraption the first time I must confess I was amazed. Before me I had placed a small cross slice of animal tissue above a mirror to reflect the sunlight. But when I peered through the view hole I saw row upon row of tiny ovalish objects (To which I shall refer to from now on as Cells, a name that carries an important meaning.) But I was further stunned when I realized that many of these Cells still moved. The tissue I should point out had been removed only minutes beforehand.
"Then I had a proverbial brainstorm. They were taken freshly from a dead animal, they moved, and were it seemed the principal makeup of the rat they had come from. They were Alive! That stunning thought nearly threw me from my ladder. But even had I broken all two-dozen lenses I looked through and every bone in my body it would not have mattered. For now everything made sense, like why cuts heal and children grow. All living organisms must be composed of these, I reasoned later that night. We are not single beings, but a multitude all working in concert.
"Within scant days I had published my findings and opened my discovery to scientifit questioning (Refer if you desire to my previous paper, A Philisophical Treatise as to the nature of living organisms and the role of viewing lenses in discovering this with the advice of the esteemed Professor Crick.)
"At this point I must confess that under my newfound fame and admiration of my discovery I let my original desire of investigation languish. Now that I was living an easy life I was not so concerned with that of my fellow man who still languished in the grip of fluxes. But soon I returned and began a detailed explanation as to the causes of sickness. In addition, to honor she who gave me life, I devoted this study to the disease that took my mother, Consumption.
"The First step was to recover fresh tissue from those recently deceased of this disease and this step was unfortunately easy. All that was necessary in fact was to visit a nearby hospital where citizens of every stripe were dying of it, despite earnest help from both Surgeons and Sorcerers.
"After this I began an earnest examination of the tissue with the Cricko-Scope at the university. What I found was disturbing. In the lung tissue particularly there was much to see. In these tissues I could see that the cells were in ill repair, choked with fluid and blood. Some were even burst. And it was these that I examined most intently, but in them I saw nothing.
"Such a dilemma this, how was it that cells could go from healthy to dead in a matter of hours? But the answer was there, stark as the moon, only waiting for my eye to notice. When I observed entirely healthy tissue (supplied by an unfortunate bout of drinking and attempted spell casting) that came into contact with infected a fascinating change occurred. The one healthy tissue began to warp and then burst exactly like those from the infected tissue.
"However it is at this point that I must confess my failure. Though I have come this far, to the point of pinpointing their methos of infection, I have reached the limits of the Cricko-Scope. No matter what dies and amplifications I use it cannot see deep enough into the depths of the cell. Not until a new revolution occurs in the realm of viewing lenses, to allow examinations at unprecedented depths, will we look upon these daemons face to face."
Dread Armor and its Origins
"emblem, they have been given a name.
"What do we know of this Dread Armor? Historians from around the world have been researching this enigmatic phenomenon for years. Logic would dictate that an intelligent man begin at the most distinctive feature - the emblem. All Dread Armor bears the symbol of an eagle with a snake's head. Extensive iconographical research has divulged little in the way of enlightenment concerning this talisman. Various cultures and subcultures over the millenia have taken both the eagle and the snake as their representative symbols, but none in recorded history have taken them together.
"Various rumors among circles less interested in science and more with the childishly fantastic have attributed this symbol to what is most often called the Derian-Ka, or ancient Order of the Dead. Such claims are little more than wild speculation, as such a group has never been proven to exist, much less to forge their own armors.
"Various experiments upon the metal itself have shown that it has enhanced magickal properties. Experts in the field attribute the flows to Dark Necromancy, as well as minute traces of the Forces and Elemental Colleges. The exact age of the armor is unknown, but modern techniques have placed it near the Age of Legends. Dread Armor has been found in almost every part of Arcanum, from the upper reaches of the Stonewall Mountains to the Dark Fens. The honorable Quentin Payne, renowned explorer from the century last, purportedly found a full set of Dread Armor on one of his forays into the Vendigroth Wastes.
"Perhaps in the future, history will be so kind as to shed some light on this most peculiar mystery. Until that time, we can only guess at the reasons behind the mystery of Dread Armor."