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Well, will you look at that, Slinky's finally dozed off! Must be the muffins! Hmm? Trouble? Bah! I was in no trouble! Disappointed are you? Well, have another muffin and mug of cider and you'll feel better. (Laugh) No, I wasn't in any trouble, but it seems that my Master had already learned of my search for . . .

 

That Infamous Key
Chapter Eight

 


We traveled down College Road, turning left at Gnarley House and onto the Apprentice Walk. Apprentice Walk and College Road are actually connected by means of a small, road-like alleyway and we turned down this alley, then turned left onto the Apprentice Walk, which ends at Smith Road, where we proceeded to turn right.

Smith Road passes through the Guildhall of Architects and Stone Masons. Originally, these two trades were separate Guilds, situated across the road from one another. So when they merged, they built a walk-way above the roadway to connect the two buildings, so that now the road actually passes through the joined buildings.

Smith Road dead ends into Castle Street, the location of my Master's shop. We turned right onto Castle Street and walked to the fourth establishment upon the right: Maldin and Elenderi's Shop of the Arcane.

The outer doors open into a foyer, the floor of which is decorated with a pentagram. This is nothing less than a powerful Warding Glyph, designed to keep powerful extra-planar creatures out and to keep them in, as the need may be.

The public portion of the shop is a large room, with a wrap-around counter. Access to the behind the counter area is to the right. Old Elbrak manages the shop for my Master and his partner and he always has his eye open for thieves.

"Good day, master Elbrak," I said.

"Good day, young one," he replied. "And what are you up to today?"

"I must see my Master," I replied. "May my friends wait here?"

"That will be fine," master Elbrak replied. "As long as they keep their hands where I can see them."

I turned to my friends. "Stay here and don't touch anything. It's not safe to do so."

They nodded agreement and I left them there and headed for the back rooms, where my Master was to be found. I passed through a door behind the counter, then down a passageway. Finally I stood before my Master's door.

"Come in," he bid me through the oak door – before I could knock.

I stepped into his office in time to see a small, humanoid, greenish skinned creature, with bat-like wings, vanish in a puff of smoke.

"You no doubt recognized my little visitor?" Maldin asked. Mortellan was there as well.

My Master stood about five feet, ten inches tall, with dark, shoulder length hair, showing some signs of gray around the temples and he wore a thick, black mustache. He weighed about one hundred, seventy-five pounds and – for all his magical prowess – he eschewed wizardly robes.

He wore black trousers tucked into highly polished black boots, a white silk shirt, opened at the collar, with sleeves that billowed at the cuffs. A red sash circled his waist and it was here that he kept his spell components tucked away, along with an odd wand, or two. He also wore a wide brimmed, soft felt hat when he was out and about.

"Yes, Master," I replied. "It was a homunculus; a magical construct formed from one pint of their creator's blood."

"And what is the purpose of homunculi?" he asked, moving to his desk.

"To serve the magician who created them in any capacity their creator might choose," I replied. "Sometimes they serve as . . . messengers."

"Yes, they do," Maldin continued. "I just received two such messages, within minutes of each other. Gratius Saghast is most pleased that I would assign my 'finest apprentice' to investigate the theft at the Library." He looked at me through raised eyebrows. "My 'finest apprentice?' Humph! Where ever did he get that notion? The second message came from Patriarch Ravel Dasinder,"

"The Patriarch!?" I exclaimed.

"Yes, the Patriarch," he calmly replied. "Your friend, Altamaic – formerly known as 'the Calm' – was so excited that you were on the case – and had solved so much of it already – that he burst in upon the Patriarch to inform him of it."

I stood stunned for a moment, letting the varied nuances of this information sink in.

"His Beatitude Dasinder was, of course, already aware of the earlier incident involving young Altamaic," my Master continued. "And when he learned that you had already connected the two events and thus pieced together a large part of the puzzle, he was delighted and sent to thank me for both my prompt action and your efforts on behalf of the Boccobian Church. Oh, he also ask that you follow-up your investigations with all haste."

Mortellan chuckled. "It seems you're coming to the attention of some very important people, my young friend." There were two glasses of wine sitting on the desk. Mortellan and my Master, Maldin, had no doubt been talking about things magical and mystical. Or they may have just been talking over old times.

"I apologize if I've caused you any trouble, Master. I . . ."

Maldin attempted to scowl, but then burst out laughing. "Not at all, young one! No trouble at all." He waved me into a chair and I sat next to Mortellan.

"What I find is that I now have two important personages believing they owe me a favor," he said, with a pleased expression upon his face. He raised a finger. "And I have no intentions of disabusing them of that thought! You know that Elenderi and I had a spot of trouble opening our shop here in Greyhawk. The Guild of Wizardry and its master, Kieren Jalucian, didn't like the idea of competition, that's why we had to make the arrangements we did." He waved his hand and a goblet of wine appeared before me.

"That's also why it's taken so long for the two of us to be accepted into the local Wizarding community," Maldin continued. "Making nice with Kieren Jalucian, since that time, has helped and now this little adventure you've become involved in is going a long way to helping even more. Why, we'll probably be invited to join the Society of Magi after this. Elenderi will be so overjoyed, there's no telling what gifts he may shower you with."

I couldn't help but smile at that. Master Elenderi had many a wondrous item in his collection. My mouth began to water.

"Well, then, tell me about this adventure of yours."

I told Maldin everything, holding nothing back, as my Master, it was his right to know. More importantly to me, as my Master, he would be morally obligated to rescue me, should anything go wrong. For this very important reason, I needed both his blessing and permission to continue with my investigation. At last, I showed him the pendant. It was made of red marble and was in the shape of a clenched fist, which appeared to be squeezing something.

"Hmm," my Master took it from me.

"It looks like a fist," I offered. "A fist squeezing something."

"Indeed," Maldin agreed. "It's squeezing a drop of blood. This is a Cairn Charm; Each is unique to a specific Star Cairn. This charm is from the Tomb of Blood Everflowing." He grew thoughtful, whispering, "Magic is the key to all things."

"Master?"

"The tomb originally served as a shrine to Wee Jas, the 'Ruby Sorceress,' but has long since fallen into disuse and disrepair." He snapped out of his revery. "I had read about the tomb in my youth, visited it once too, but I haven't been to the Cairn Hills in many a long year. My interests lie elsewhere, these days."

He handed the pendant back to me. "You will need to find a map to the tomb, I can't tell you how to get there. Are you wearing your amulet?" And just like that, I had his permission to continue my investigation.

I placed my hand on my chest, covering the hidden amulet. "Always, Master."

"Then you can summon me if you get into trouble . . . and you just might," he warned. "Given what the thief has stolen. Still, this is your hour to shine. Word is already spreading among those who need know such things and many a distinguished eye is upon you, taking careful note. But you are doing well."

I beamed with pleasure at his obvious pride. Then turned somber.

"Master?"

"Yes?"

"About the book?"

"No one knows what's in it," he said, anticipating my question. "We only know the author."

"And who is the author," I asked, dreading the answer.

His head was bent down and he looked at me through lowered eyebrows. "Zagig Yragerne." He leaned back in his chair and folded his arms across his chest. "And that – quite possibly – tells us something of the key, as well."

"What about the key?" I asked.

"Zagig was rumored to have had a plain looking, but very magical key," Mortellan answered me. "I have been researching the matter. It is said that 'Zagig's key' could open any lock." He looked hard at me. "Any lock."

There was a sudden, urgent knocking at the door. "Enter."

Elbrak shoved his head into the room. "Excuse me, Master Maldin, but Constable Derider Fanshen is out here with some of her men, making all kinds of trouble for the young master's friends. She's demanding to see him."

"Gratius Saghast, no doubt," my Master replied. "Show her in, Elbrak."

Elbrak closed the door and went to fetch the Constable.

Mortellan whistled. "You really are coming to the attention of some notable people."
"Trouble, Master?" I asked.

"I shouldn't think so," Maldin replied, waving his hand dismissively. "Saghast probably complained about the lack of progress being made in the Library investigation and then threw your achievements into Fanshen's face." He shook his head. "Saghast needs to take a course in diplomacy at the University."

There was a knock, the door opened and Elbrak ushered Derider Fanshen into the office. Mortellan and I rose when she entered.

Greyhawk's Constable was a striking woman in her late thirties. She was as tall as my Master, weighing about one hundred, twenty-five pounds, with honey colored hair and bright gray eyes. She wore full plate mail, with a sword at her side, but her helmet, shield and famed magical staff were not in evidence. Derider Fanshen was the Constable of Greyhawk and second-in-command of the City's Watch. She was also a high ranking cleric of Pelor.

"Constable Fanshen," my Master greeted her.

"Archmage," she replied with a slight bow of her head. "I wish to speak with your apprentice. I have been informed that he possesses vital information regarding a recent crime." She turned her stern countenance on me.

"Yes, indeed," Maldin replied. "In fact, we were just talking about it. Won't you have a seat?"

I offered her mine and she sat.

"He was offered a commission – just yesterday – to investigate a theft which occurred in the Foreign Quarter," my Master informed her. "His investigations lead him to discover that there was a connection with the theft at the Library. He will be happy to tell you his tale."

I began at the beginning and told her almost everything, though I withheld certain information regarding Cyrathas and his group; I wasn't about to give up that valuable source of information.


* * * *


"And is that everything?" She asked me, knowing it wasn't.

"Most of it," Maldin interjected, answering for me. "Some of the story is of no use to you." He held up his hand to forestall her objection. "I know what you're thinking Constable, but his revealing the source of his information will prove of no benefit to anyone. Such knowledge will not get you any closer to this 'Veltargo' personage and it will most certainly not garner you another informant. Trust me in this matter."

"By withholding that information, my apprentice gains a valuable informant for himself," Maldin continued. "One which would be of no use to you, since they would rather rot in a cell then ever tell you anything. You may be certain, however, that my apprentice would never think of endangering the city by withholding any vital information from you. Whatever he knows, or learns, that could be of any value to the constabulary – or to the defense of the city – you may rest assured that he will tell you of it."

"I would like to believe this, master Maldin," Derider said. "You and master Elenderi have proven yourselves to be good, law-abiding citizens since your arrival in Greyhawk. You have honored the agreements you made in establishing your business here and have paid your taxes promptly. Also, I am aware of how these things work. But why didn't the young man come to me sooner?" She turned her eyes to me.

"Forgive me, Constable," I placed my hand on my heart and bowed. "But news – whether good or bad – flies from mouth to ear faster than fly the hawks for which our beloved city is named."

She laughed at that. "You are right, there, young man!"

I smiled and continued my account. "I have only just this morning verified my deductions and pieced this convoluted puzzle together. But, I believe that you are familiar with the rules governing our Order? My first duty is to my Master, as he is responsible for my actions. I assure you that your office was to be my next stop."

She looked deep into my eyes – still smiling – and nodded. "I do not know why, but for some reason, I believe you." She rose from her chair. "So, now your 'next stop' becomes the Cairn Hills." It wasn't a question. "You will need to see Melezakan the Mapmaker, his shop is on Brick Lane. He's the best at his trade and he's always paying coin to adventurers for bringing back maps of the Cairn Hills. Check with him. And be sure to keep me posted as to the latest developments." Standing, she nodded her head to my Master and departed.

"Am I really going to be supplying her with information?" I whispered, after the door had closed.

Maldin laughed. "Not unless you want to."

"Can you find Melezakan's place?" asked Mortellan.

"I believe so," I replied. "The name is familiar. An old schoolmate works there, I believe. A girl named Anna."

"Oh! A girl!" Maldin broke into laughter and Mortellan joined him.

I blushed. "It's nothing like that."

"Sure," chided Mortellan. "That's what you say now!"

I left him and my Master laughing as I returned to my friends. I had been in the office for almost an hour and found my friends fidgeting when I rejoined them.

"It's about time!" cried Wolfsire.

"Sorry about that," I apologized.

"Constable Fanshen was threatening to lock everyone up!" exclaimed Bubbagump.

"She accused us of withholding information regarding a crime," explained Eileen.

"I'm really sorry about that," I apologized again. "But she has the straight of it now and we won't be bothered anymore. I promise. Let's go."

We stepped out into the street.

"Did you learn anything?" asked Bubbagump.

"Yes, I did." I replied. "Both good and bad."

"Sounds ominous," said Eileen, looking quizzically at me.

I shrugged. "We obtained much needed information. But I also learned that these past events portend something bad and are, perhaps, merely small parts of something bigger."

"Of course," Eileen simply stated. "Else the 'Lady of Our Fate' would not be involved."

"So, where to now?" asked Wolfsire.

"The Cairn Hills," I replied. "Eventually."

"Eventually?" asked Eileen.

"Yes, we need more information first," I answered her. "My Master recognized the pendant. Now, we need a map to a specific tomb located within the Hills. I'm going to see about getting such a map, but I'd also like to keep a promise that we made, since we have a little time now. I'm speaking of our promise to Brother Nicholi Nortoi, the priest of Saint Cuthbert."

"I'd like that," Eileen replied.

"Me too!" Bubbagump chimed in.

"Well, let's go change the items we've collected into coin," I said. "Then we'll have a quick lunch and I'll give the two of you directions to a place where supplies can be purchased for Brother Nortoi and his newest converts; Solnia and Irontusk."

So we headed west on Castle Street until it merged with Craftsman's Way, then turned left onto Batwing Lane and walked right into the Petite Bazaar, known locally as the 'Low Market.' We quickly located a booth where we sold the silver picture frame and the two large sapphires for a total of three hundred gold orbs. This gave us a total profit from our adventure of three hundred, thirty-eight orbs! And this was after all of our expenditures – thus far.

"Magician, I'll say it again, you were right!" Wolfsire laughed. "This adventure is netting us a tidy sum."

I nodded. "I knew it would. Shall we divide it now?"

"No," answered Eileen. "Let us keep it in a common fund for now, to cover our expenses. But let us take out some for the supplies we promised Brother Nortoi."

Bubbagump and Wolfsire quickly agreed. I counted out fifty orbs and gave them to Eileen. "I don't know how much the supplies will cost," I said.

"We will bring back the remainder, to be returned to the common fund," Eileen said.
"And you need to leave a few more orbs with Brother Nortoi," said Wolfsire. "Those kids down there looked real hungry."

"Thus speaks the Ice Barbarian with the heart of gold!" I laughed, as did Eileen and Bubbagump. Wolfsire blushed.

"We'll do that," Eileen assured him.

"This way," I said.

We walked back up Batwing Lane and turned right on Craftsman's Way. When this road turned south, we stayed straight and was once again on Castle Street. We passed my Master's shop and turned right onto Brick Lane. The third building on the left was The Fat of the Hog, a local tavern famous for its pork dishes.

"I think you'll like this place," I informed my friends. "Waldo Parstiche is the proprietor and he specializes in pork dishes of all kinds. His Brother Ernest has a manor-house a day's ride to the west, along the Marsh Path, where the family specializes in raising and fattening hogs. Waldo appreciates it when people try samples of his 'Daily Special,' even if you end up not actually ordering it. So be prepared to try it, we don't want to insult him."

"You eat here often?" asked Wolfsire.

"Occasionally," I shrugged. "It's close to my Master's shop and he likes to drop in here for a quick lunch whenever he's pressed for time."

The place was crowded, as was usual, but not unduly so given that the lunch hour was still some few minutes off. So we found a small table for the four of us and sat down. 'Wide Waldo,' as everyone calls him, came over to greet us and we dutifully tried his daily special – pork ribs simmered in a spicy pepper sauce.

Wolfsire thought it was the greatest thing ever and ordered a double portion, but it was a little too peppery for the rest of us and so Eileen and I ordered the pork roast with potatoes and other steamed vegetables, while Bubbagump ordered several types of Waldo's bacon-wrapped delicacies, accompanied by piles of mushrooms. There was fresh, warm bread with a bowl of butter on the table and we each had a tankard of Waldo's chilled, amber ale.

After lunch, we split up; Wolfsire and I were headed just down the street to Maps by Melezakan. Constable Fanshen had said the establishment was located on Brick Lane and thus the reason for my choice of The Fat of the Hog for lunch.

Eileen and Bubbagump were headed back to Cargo Street and a merchant house named Gerridan's, just across from the Green Dragon Inn, to get the things needed by Brother Nortoi. If Gern Gerridan didn't have what was needed, he would know where we could get it. Wolfsire and I would meet them in Shack Town later.

Wolfsire and I walked to the shop of Melezakan, just a few doors down the street. Pushing open the door we stepped into a small receiving area facing a counter. The rear wall was easily the first thing anyone would notice. The entire wall was a large, birds-eye view map of the City of Greyhawk. An observer could see that it was a nearly complete map, showing almost every building within the city's walls. I had heard Anna speak of it back when we were in school together. Melezakan considered it to be his 'masterpiece.'

We stepped up to the counter and there, on the other side, her head bent over a map, was Anna. She wore a flowered gown which showed her figure nicely. She stood about five feet, six inches tall, and weighed perhaps one hundred pounds – when she was wet, that is. She had long auburn hair that hung past her shoulders, almost to her waist, with the most startling green eyes I'd ever seen. I once thought myself to be in love with her.

I cleared my throat and she looked up.

"Magician!" She ran to the counter and took my hand. "It's been so long! Why haven't you come to visit me before now?"

"Sorry about that," I apologized. "I've just emerged from two years inside the Pyramid."

"Oh!" she blushed. "Of course, I had forgotten about that!"

"Allow me to introduce my friend, Wolfsire, an Ice Barbarian of the far northern Kingdom of the Cruski, located on the Thillonrian peninsula."

"Shush," Anna whispered, casting a look over her shoulder. "Don't let Melezakan hear you! He'll have your friend tied up for weeks, giving him details for maps of the Thillonrian peninsula and the barbarian kingdoms there!" She laughed, a truly delightful sound. "So, are you here to see me? Or Melezakan?" She batted her eyes. She was always a bit flirtatious, but never really seemed to be serious about it.

"As nice as it is to see you again, I'm afraid it's business," I replied.

"Phooey!" She pouted prettily too, then she laughed again. "But I thought as much. Let me get Melezakan for you."

She went to the back of the shop to fetch the master Mapmaker for us. Melezakan stood five feet, eight inches tall, with a bald crown and stringy black hair forming a crescent around the rest of his head. He weighed perhaps one hundred, seventy-five pounds, wore black robes and had a quill stuck behind each ear.

"How can I help you?" he asked, in a weak, reedy voice.

"I need a map of the Cairn Hills," I replied. "I'm hoping you have one showing the location of the Tomb of Blood Everflowing."

"Ahh! It just so happens that I do have such a map," Melezakan said. "Regrettably, it only shows the location of the tomb and not the floor plan – such a terrible lack of information!"

"Floor plan?" asked Wolfsire.

"The layout of course," Melezakan supplied. "What the inside of the tomb looks like. Don't you know anything?"

"We understand," I said, holding up my hand and forestalling an outburst from Wolfsire. "Directions to the tomb are really all that we hoped for anyway. How much for the map?"

"Well, now, that depends," said Melezakan, getting a surreptitious look in his eyes. I could sense a certain avarice there, but as Constable Fanshen had alluded, it wasn't any rapacity for gold that I sensed.

"Depends on what?" I asked, prepared to play his game and suspecting what was coming.

"The map I have isn't very precise, as I have said," Melezakan continued. "It lacks certain information, though it will certainly get you to the tomb, have no doubt as to that! But it is insufficient and I want to make it a better map. I'm always striving to improve my maps! So I propose an exchange, that is, you bring to me more precise information, so that I might produce a better map."

"Is that all?" I asked.

"No, it is not," he replied. "I want a map-like diagram detailing the layout of the tomb. I want measurements; height, width, length, depth and so on. You must be precise in the details, mind you! I want to make quality maps! If you would agree to do this for me, returning here with the information I need, then I'll give you the map I have. No charge."

"I had heard that you pay adventurers for such information," I replied.

"No gold!" Melezakan quickly interjected. "This map I give you, plus a copy of the improved version – should you wish it – will be your payment! But, be warned! Anna tells me that you are an old school friend of hers. So, then, know that I will hold her responsible for any monetary recompense, should you fail to keep our bargain!"

"I wasn't going to ask for gold, master Melezakan," I informed him. "I was simply going to say that, since we share a common interest in this matter, I believe it will be possible for us to exchange favors."

"Excellent!" cried Melezakan, overjoyed at the prospect.

"And Anna need have no fear of being 'stuck with the bill,' as they say," I continued. "But I'm certain she already knows that."

Melezakan handed over the map and promptly returned to his work, while Anna walked us out. "I was never concerned about you 'skipping out' on me." She lowered her voice. "And you should know that, when you get back from your trip, I won't be here. I'm going to work for Geld's Maps, over behind the Green Dragon Inn!"

"Why the move?" I vaguely remembered my Master once mentioning the name Lazzarin Geld, but couldn't quite recall the context.

"I'll tell you when you get back!" she said, with an impish grin. "Look for me!"

So map in hand, we bade Anna good-bye – giving her assurances that I would return to visit her at Geld's – and set off to see how Eileen and Bubbagump were making out with Brother Nortoi, over in Shack Town.

We headed back up Brick Lane to Castle Street, turned left, merged onto Craftsman's Way and came out in the northern extremity of the Petite Bazaar. We cut across the Bazaar to Nervern Walk and turned right, following it until it ended at Horseshoe Road, in front of the Nyrondese Trader's Hall.

Wolfsire was eager to learn of the city and took it all in. I answered his questions as best I could for, although familiar with many of the establishments, I hadn't actually visited all of them.

We followed Horseshoe Road for almost a mile passing – as we went – The Silver Garter (a place where one might find 'bawdy' entertainment), the old abandoned Public Bathhouse, The Red Serpent Restaurant (which specializes in pepper and rice dishes), the Translators Guildhall, Roanwood Road (home of the Ahlissan Merchant's Headquarters), the Foreign Quarter's City Watch station and The Barge Inn (a favorite among the city's dwarven population), until we came at last to Cairn Court, where our adventure had begun the day before.

Just past Cairn Court we turned left onto The Strip and made our way to the Cargo Gate, once again dodging pick-pockets, cut-purses and thieves as we passed by The Sea Willow and The River Rat – two low dens of iniquity favored by the Rhennee, when they stayed in Greyhawk.

As we neared the gate itself, Wolfsire began turning his head to and fro, looking all about him.

"What are you looking for?" I asked.

"Those 'People's Constables' we ran into yesterday," he replied. "I'm not taking any guff off of them today!"

I laughed at this observation and, giving our information to the Watchmen posted there, we passed through the gate without any trouble. We turned right onto The Dockway and headed north to Shack Town. The Dockway was even busier than it had been the day before and our progress was a little slow. Still we made it through the docks and on through Barge End all without any mishaps, finally arriving back in Shack Town.

We soon found ourselves once more standing before Brother Nicholi Nortoi's Shrine to Saint Cuthbert . . . 'the Cudgel.'

 

Next... Go to That Infamous Key, Part 9

To the beginning... Go to That Infamous Key, Part 1


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This page last modified on April 1, 2013