Quest for the Grace [22 Thory 4385]
The next morning, I was still far too sick to go out adventuring. And I had still gotten far too sick by saving Phaniet's life, so it seemed only reasonable that I then endanger her life by sending her out to get the Grace that she had offered to get for Quendry.
I couldn't get Inconnu to go with her, which meant that I spent half the morning curled up in Inconnu's lap, which is potentially awkward. I could, and did, get Rheng to go with her, because he is the Thief Supreme (according to himself) and good at getting around the Verticals. Jyondre seduced Yerenthax some more by volunteering both of them before she did, so that was ... um ... two very solid warriors, a clever and bold Orren, and a cowardist mage who never goes into danger when she doesn't have to, but has quite a bit of magic in her level head. ("cowardist" being rude adventurer slang for "not an adventurer".)
Next question was where to go. Phaniet and I improvised something tangentially related to Orkozarmon's Tenebrous Resonance, which worked pretty well and showed off a Grace of Mircannis not ten miles off.
Unfortunately some of those miles were straight up the main trunk. Which would have not been any of a problem if we had a working sky pilot; we could have flown them around in a dinghy and everything would have been as easy as, if not pie exactly, then some of those little treacle tarts with pears and nuts in them. Unfortunately, I was too sick to either go or appreciate those tarts, and Windigar was stomped flat from dying repeatedly, so that didn't work. Jyondre and Yerenthax snuck over to Eigrach and talked to their friends in the city guard and came back with some wall-walker talismans.
They scraped the bottom of the Strayway strongbox. (This has been a very expensive vacation; we have already gobbled through the money I had brought to last generously for two years. Fortunately, Zascalle says that the cross-branch banking system is not utterly incapable of sending us some money from my account in Ketheria in a matter of a few weeks, so I wrote some letters authorizing her to do whatever was necessary and sent her off to Eigrach. I will probably need to sell or mortgage some bit of enchantment to last 'til then.)
Obligatory Monsters In The Way
So they ground-walked over to the main trunk, and then wall-walked up it. It's a fecund sort of season, so the verticals-trees made a beautiful green canopy that was impossible for them to see through. So up they climbed, and after a while they got jumped by a hugeng. Or jumped a hugeng; I am not quite sure of the details. (For those of you who have never happened to make the acquaintance of a hugeng: they are one of the early monsters that Accanax (argh, my patron, now) made in a temper tantrum. Giant aerial shrimps, with sharp spiky legs and a penchant for spitting bone javelins out and giving people tremors. Well, Rheng and Jyondre got spiked by sharp spiky legs and/or stabbed by bone javelins, and Jyondre had the tremors for a while, but they dealt with the thing and brought a lot of its meat along with them.
Then they met a vorwi -- a floating tetrahedral person with four polymorphic pseudopod hands. (Ever notice how many of the Verticals-beasts float? There is probably some reason for it, though it eludes me at the moment.) They placated it with offers of hugeng-flesh, terrified it by telling it the news of the nendrai living not ten miles off, and it showed them to the headquarters and fortress of SOMP.
SOMP, as everyone who is anyone in the illicit-pharmaceuticals business around Eigrach knows (and didn't you?), is the Society for the Observation of Mircannis under Plants. None of us had heard of them. They introduced themselves by saying, "We're not a crazy cult of berserk devotees of Mircannis! We're just some honest Rassimel farmers and crafters, living in a blobby fortress in the Verticals, carefully outside of the laws and customs of Eigrach."
When someone introduces themselves that way, you believe them, of course. Or you pretend to. Even if your Sleeth sniff out that the "honest Rassimel farmers" are growing wenezza [the World Tree date-rape drug -bb] and other such things.
Well, Phaniet politely offered to buy the Grace, and they just as politely refused to sell one of their sacred artifacts to her.
But, they were polite primes. They offered to heal the wounded Rheng and Jyondre, with some mysterious green healing paste that they produce there -- they do produce a lot of healing items. The wounded Rheng and Jyondre were pleased to accept.
Which seemed good at the time, but not so good a little later. The Sompites had mixed a mind-command powder (krendayn, I think) into the healing goop. Krendayn is not the wickedest sort of mind-command powder that ever was. It cannot be used to compel people to violate the bounds of morality, politeness, or good taste. It can be used for commands like Tomorrow at noontime you will leave SOMP without the Grace of Mircannis, and never return." And, by itself, it's not that hard to resist krendayn; but Rheng and Jyondre had already waived their resistance, because resisting it would have resisted the healing (and the mind control was sufficiently obscure that they didn't notice it until too late.)
Which was pretty awkward. The SOMPites really didn't want to give up their Grace.
Well, Rheng and Jyondre were rather upset. Mind control is one of the least-socially-acceptable acts here. If it had been inside a city-state, the Sompites would have been begging for a lynching. Outside, well, Phaniet complained at them, and they noted that they had to protect themselves as best they could in the Verticals, etc., and they were very sorry but they wouldn't part with their Grace for anything short of a massive disaster in Eigrach or some such thing.
So, the wrongfolk went to their guest rooms, and ate of their own food (except Phaniet, who trusts her nose and her sense of magic analysis, and was not further drugged or poisoned).
The Inevitable Adventurer-Style Conclusion
At night, Rheng snuck out. He couldn't bring the Grace home, but he hadn't been compelled not to find it. Of course, SOMP being a pack of crazed cultists, they had a couple guards sitting on the door to the room containing the Grace. And, being a pack of crazed Rassimel cultists, lots of them were awake -- the guards, and some people working in their workshop, making more of those drugs that aren't allowed in cities.
Here's where it becomes clear that my friends were adventurers. Rheng tried to claw a hole in the wall to the Grace-room (the walls were a bit ramshackle, but, as befits We-Are-Not-A-Cult, the Grace-room itself was a nice little altar room). He knocked chunks of wood down on the main SOMP sleeping quarters, which were underneath the altar room, waking up everyone who wasn't already awake. Jyondre snuck out and flooded the workshop and set a chimney on (illusionary) fire, as a distraction. Somehow, they persuaded some of the Sompites that they were not here to acquire the Grace, but, instead, they were Eigrach city guards coming to shut down the evil herbalists. Which might have been a tactical disadvantage, since those Sompites would now want to kill them, but whatever.
Phaniet, hearing the commotion, popped out the guest quarters in a panic. She persuaded some other Sompites that she was an utter cowardist, a weak and pathetic city-dweller, so nervous that the slightest bit of thumping and dripping in the night of the Verticals brought her to a panic. Those Sompites made her go back to bed and shut up. So, she did, and arranged pillows and blankets in the beds to appear person-shaped, in the classic style.
In the confusion, Rheng squeezed into the altar room, snatched the Grace, and hightailed it for the guest room. Phaniet, uncontrolled, took it from him. She left the purse containing the payment for the Grace she had offered at first.
Then they fled -- separately, I think, to satisfy the control spell -- outward from the trunk, and treated themselves to a Very Long Jump, falling a few miles back to near the flats and catching themselves with levitation spells and suchlike. The Sompites presumably couldn't pursue them so far.
So I drank lots of kathia, puked most of it up again, (repeat a few times) and poured some into Phaniet by way of thanks, and we repaired Quendry. To the point of being in just about as bad shape as Windigar and Ochirion, viz., flat in bed for a few more weeks. (I have not the slightest idea what to do about Feralan, of course, but at least he won't die without attention. I think.)
Anyhow, I have the best wizard's assistant on the World Tree, and the best friends and clients, too. Even if I am now probably at war with SOMP.
And nothing I have ever done settles the spell-churned stomach quite so much as writing in my journal (or, perhaps, having none of my friends in a fatal coma anymore due to the actions of another friend.) I actually feel mostly better now.