Giving Her The Money [17 Lage 4385]
When Mellilot demanded passage home, I told her "Tell Zascalle I said to give it to you." Which should not have been a serious problem, but it was. Mellilot stomped back to my parlor two-thirds of an hour later.
Mellilot: "Zascalle is nowhere to be found."
Me: "She's not?"
Kantele: "She and Thiane and the kids are visiting friends in Eigrach for a few days."
Me: "Oh, right. Kantele, could you ... actually, no, you're all sore from bone-pains today. Kantele, could you write the letters to some banks on the way. I'll go and get Mellilot the money."
So we strode and/or flew to the Parlor of Accounting, and I persuaded the moderately-enchanted lockbox to open up. I knew we were low on cash, but it didn't look too bad. The lockbox was half-full of lozens. Single-lozen coins mostly, when it should have been tens and thirty-trees. Presumably Phaniet had fished out all the big coins to take to buy that Grace.
I took the opportunity to make Mellilot feel bad.
Me: "At a guess, we have enough to buy you passage, or to pay everyone their wages, not both. You're in so much of a hurry to get back that you'll delay everyone else?"
Mellilot: "You've been saying you'll mortgage some enchantments for days now. Just go do it. Get them back when your money from Vheshrame gets here. Not a big deal, if you do it today."
Me: "Thank you for the nagging. Get a bag; this'll be a lot of coins."
I reached into the half-full box to scoop out some money. My claws ran into cloth almost instantly.
Me: "What's in here?"
Mellilot and I excavated. The box wasn't half-full of coins. It was half-full of cushions, with coins scattered on top of them to make it look half-full.
Mellilot: "That doesn't look good."
Me: "Oh, dearie." Or something along those lines, but not nearly so polite.
I acquired some detectives. Actually, they're not real detectives, they're just clever and/or bold people.
Kantele: "Who can get into the box?"
Me: "I can, you can, Phaniet can, Zascalle can, and a few people can who are buried up in Vheshrame. Or a good sorcerer, but I imagine Vae and I would have noticed that."
Kantele: "Phaniet, pray do me the kindness of ..."
Phaniet: "My nose is at your service, good Kantele!" She sniffed around the box quite carefully. "Fresh scents: Sythyry and Mellilot. Older scents: Zascalle and Thiane. A faint hint of me, from when I paid for the Grace a couple weeks ago."
Me: "You did not put cushions in there, did you?"
Phaniet: "I did not. I combed through the box a good deal, looking for large coins so as to have less to carry into the Verticals, and there were definitively no cushions in there when I left."
Arfaen: "Let me smell too!" She did. "Phaniet's right, that's everyone I smell." Arfaen's loyalty instinct must be cast with seven cley today. [English idiom might be "must be in high gear". No actual cley is involved. -bb]
Kantele: "Which proves fairly little, as anyone capable of getting into the box by magical means would have been capable of hiding their scent as well."
Me: "Well, I can check that." Which took a bit of manipulation of the Eye of Mirizan and Melizan, and other forms of poking. "No magical bypassings of the locks or the nearby space, nor any attempt to hide scent." Which is technically not infallable: a sufficiently good spell could trick me. It would take a very good illusionist indeed, and such people can generally make money in better and quicker and safer ways than stealing from a wizard's lockbox. Or I could have sought the wrong form of intrusion, I suppose, but I had investigated many forms and anyone creative enough to get in by some other way could probably have made money better quicker safer too.
My friends looked at each other, tails twitching nervously.
Kantele: "I am afraid that it is time to inquire of Zascalle."
Me: "I am afraid so too, but she's not on board. Just where is she staying?"
Phaniet: "Thiane's clan-friends."
Kantele: "For the last several days."
Yerenthax: "Financial fiends, us fleeing from / A battle bodes. It calls; I come. And the first line means they're fleeing from us, not us from them."
Me: "You may be right, though I do hope we can settle this without a pitched battle in the streets of Eigrach. Yerenthax, Jyondre, will you do me the kindness of accompanying us? Both in case it does come to violence, and because the Eigrach city guard thinks well of you, and that will help when we are arrested."