Red’s Part, Part One
Everyone in The Realms has a part to play. This is Red’s part.
When they last left her, Red the Dwarven Cleric had volunteered to stay behind in The Allied Seller’s Union so she could search for her new friend (Lil Forestdweller, who had gone missing) and spend time with her new boyfriend – Gruff.
“Gruff, me mind’s screamin’ a’ me fer not spendin’ me time lookin’ fer me girlfriend,” a slightly hungover Red tells the sturdy Dwarf, as she tickles his bare belly with her beard.
“Hellava time ta be tellin’ me, Red!” Gruff grumbles, through the sudden searing pain of a much worse hangover. “When ye hear snorin’, girl, that means there be a Dwarf sleepin’!”
Red rolls her naked body off Gruff’s and takes the bed covers with her.
“Oh, is that how it be, Mister Gruff? I spends a coupla days in drunken debauchery wit’ ye an’ all a’ th’ sudden me pilla talk ain’t wanted!”
She wraps herself in the blankets and waddles toward her armor, which lay in various piles near the back door of the one room stone shack.
“Hol’ up there, missy!” a cold Gruff hollers, as he slides off the short bed they had been sharing in his home and shoves his bare feet into his work boots. “Me mind ain’t as weak as ye may be thinkin’. Ye been lookin’ fer an excuse ta hit the trail again. Don’t ye be usin’ me cantankerous nature inna mornin’ fer such an excuse!”
Red circles around the room, pulling various bits of her belongings and clothing into the blanket with her, like a woolen Gelatinous Cube cleaning a dungeon floor.
“Don’t ye be leavin’ wit’ out me, ye stubborn Northerner!” Gruff yells – although she’s just a few feet away. “Ain’t like a bath’s waitin’ fer me. Be ready afore ye!” he shouts, pulling his knit cap over his long, wavy hair.
Red pulls her leggings on and looks up through her blanket at Gruff. He is standing near the door in his work boots and cap, naked everywhere else, but with a determined look on his ruddy face.
His face turns red(der). “What?!” he demands.
She laughs even harder.
Gruff tosses his cap onto the stone floor of his shack.
She falls over laughing. “Yes, yes, that’s better still!” she snorts out.
Gruff looks down and ceases being angry, though his face stays quite red. “Well, while ye roll aroun’ on me floor, fetch me pants an’ . . . awww, Red, ye be a strange kinda Dwarf.”
After a long sigh, he walks back to his bed and gets properly dressed. By the time he is ready to go, Red is standing near the door. He says, “There, ready!”
She is in his stocking cap and her trail boots, rubbing his blanket back and forth on her gyrating backside, like a dancing girl.
“Ready fer what, Mister Gruff?” she asks in her most mock-seductive voice.
Gruff moans and looks away.
He looks back and she’s sliding the blanket back and forth between her legs and grinning at him.
“Ain’t funny.” he grumbles.
“Ta tell ye th’ truth, Mister Gruff,” Red whispers in a husky voice, as she tip-toes forward, “mus’ be somethin’ ye use ta clean ye blankets, but Red ain’t laughin’ no more, either.”
She dives on him, knocking him back onto the bed, and covers his face in hot kisses.
“Silly girl,” he mumbles, as he starts loosening his clothing, “them blankets ain’t never been washed.”
An hour later, Red sneaks out of Gruff’s tiny house, leaving the exhausted Dwarf to sleep off his hangover. Walking down the bustling streets of The Allied Sellers Union, she can’t stop thinking about Gruff’s mention of taking a bath. It was at the hot spring baths that Lil and her had cemented their friendship. Anyone who could convince a Dwarf to get wet – and like it – must truly be special.
She had formulated her plan for locating Lil a day earlier. She would start with the last person she knew to have seen her, a famous Bard named Fino. Now that is a handsome non-Dwarf, she thinks.
Her thoughts then drift to another handsome non-Dwarf, one she has real feelings for: the Mage Orjulun. “Too bad he don’t feel the same. ‘Tis jus’ puppy love, anyhow,” she says aloud, as she picks up her pace.
In an effort to locate Fino, Red spends the next four hours talking to eight different Thieves and Bards, all of whom send her to someone else, usually a twenty minute hike away. When number nine tells her she should head to the opposite side of the city and speak to yet another Thief, she loses her patience. For someone of a race which abhors water, she has excellent skill at divining just how long a young man can hold his breath without dying. After the third water barrel dunk, he tells her what she wants.
“Thank ye very kindly,” she says, as she walks away. “Pleasure doin’ business wit’ ye.”
The young Thief crawls around on all fours evacuating the contents of his stomach, as his good-bye.
According to the young thief who’s lungs Red tested, Fino will be performing just outside The Hot Spring Inn at noon, which gives her just enough time to get there and eat lunch.
The party had stayed at that inn while they were all in the city, so she knows the place well. She contemplates taking a quick bath in the hot spring, but knows too well a quick bath can very well turn into an hour long affair.
She eats her lunch, finds a spot to sit outside, and waits for Fino.
Shortly after noon, Fino arrives. He has a large group of fans following him down the street, as he plays. He had obviously been playing the entire trip, to draw as big of a crowd as possible. He choses a tree stump as his seat and breaks into another instrumental.
Red listens and finds herself enjoying the strange Human music. She also notices she isn’t as enamored with the man as she was the first time she saw him. Perhaps some of the lust she had felt for him then was a result of the obvious attraction Lil had for him. Maybe she was just playing along for the fun of it back then.
“Good, that’ll make it much easier if’n Red hasta dunk ‘im in water, too.”
After the Bard had finished his performance, collected his coins, and heard all the addresses of the various young ladies who whispered in his ear, she approaches him.
He recognizes her instantly and smiles.
Her knees feel a little weak. Maybe he does have a certain charm.
“Have ye seen Lil Forestdweller lately?” she asks, bluntly.
Fino blanches and pauses a long moment before answering, “No, I haven’t. Let us step over here by these trees and discuss it.”
Once they stand at the edge of the forest, which closely surrounds the city, Fino asks her to sit.
She tells him she would rather stand.
Fino smiles and repeats the question and she sits.
Red has a feeling she is not going to like what he has to say.
“I dislike having to be the one to tell you this, Red, but your friend was murdered her first morning in the city.”
Red rolls the words around in her head for a while.
Not died in battle or died in an accident – but murdered.
She has to know more.
“She was alone in a church here in the city when someone slit her throat.”
“What was she doin’ in a church? Druids worship inna forest?”
“Apparently, she was about to speak to a High Priest about getting her friends raised from the dead.”
“All of ’em? What was she thinkin’ – they’d do it fer free?”
“No. She had just taken a large sum of money out of a depository that morning. Whoever killed her took the riches she carried with her after slaying her.”
“Then all we gotta do’s look fer someone who’s suddenly spendin’ a lot.”
“Yes, well, that is what we’ve been doing, but no one has been spending more than usual and no Thief in the city has given any clues to being involved in such a robbery. We are still investigating – the city and the guild – but we have little to work with. We even spoke with her corpse and she gave us no clues.”
Red pauses in thought, then answers, “Ye can keep searchin’ yer way ifn’ ye wish, Fino, but Red’s gonna start ‘er own investigation. An’ th’ guilty party’s gonna pay!”
Fino looks around to be certain no one is listening, then tells her, “I understand that she was a friend to you, but this city does not tolerate vigilante activity. Your friend SeLiem was arrested for such actions just a few days ago.”
Red is shocked.
“Ye have no ‘Blood for Blood’ laws in this city?”
“Blood for . . . no. It is unlawful to kill anyone in ASU,” he answers. “Listen, why don’t we work together? I have the Guild and the government helping me to some extent – neither wants this crime to go unpunished. I can help you.”
“That would be acceptable.”
Red lists the assistance she requires.
1. A tour of the ‘depository’ and opportunity to interview those Lil spoke with there.
2. Someone to explain the laws and rules of such a place, specifically who can claim any remaining treasure left by someone who has passed on. Also, whether or not there is some way she can legally seek vengeance against her murder.
3. Someone to (again) raise Lil from the dead, so she can help investigate her own death.
4. Someone to get Lil’s friends raised from the dead (at this point a tear drops from Red’s eye, as the horrible realization that Lil’s friends may not be raised after Lil had done all she could to see it happen).
5. Someone to take her to the local Druid Circle, so she can request aid in her investigation or effort to bring Lil back to life.
6. Any magical assistance in researching who killed her.
7. To speak to everyone at the church where she was killed.
Fino listens to every word, before answering, “You can visit the bank on your own, but no one has any access to her records there. The bankers knew nothing. I will have to look into the laws governing deposits to see how that is handled. Most likely, the bank keeps it, but if you get her raised she will be able to claim anything that was left.
“Me hope was ta use th’ coin ta get ‘er raised!” Red shouts.
“You’ll likely have to find another way. There is nothing I can do about getting her raised, although I did arrange for the bodies of her former party to be brought to ASU for burial. They should be here in a few days. I hear there is a Talking Owl named Otto with them who has been following those I had sent. They sent me a magical message.”
“Magic message . . . hmmmm . . . send a message ta Otto. Tell ’em ta fly ta me here. We can use his help!”
“I can arrange that. Also, I will send a message to the nearest high-ranking Druid and see if he will speak with you. Feel free to visit the church on your own accord, but behave, they have been helpful so far and I don’t want that to change. I already had someone petition them to Commune to learn the identity of Lil’s killer, but they will not. Communes are meant to be rare and they did not judge it merited such a powerful use of godly power. They are good people, but they cannot help everyone.”
Red frowns at this comment, waves, and walks away.
As she walks back to Gruff’s, Red thinks about who could have wanted Lil dead. The list isn’t very long: The Mage Lil’s party had just slain when they found her body, one of his cohorts, someone at the church who figured she may have coin with her if she had mentioned the need to talk to someone about resurrecting the dead, someone at the ‘bank’ (although Red has no idea what a ‘bank’ is) who knew she was carrying a large amount of treasure, Evenliir – out of jealousy or revenge or just for the hell of it, Lickmer may have been following her trying to get to Orjulun and killed her when he saw she had gold, Fino, any Thief.
She considers the party. Everyone liked Lil, so it seemed unlikely any of them would harm her (hell, they just raised her from the dead). Still, she can’t discount anyone. Except Melias, Percy, and Orjulun, they would never do such a cowardly thing.
“This ain’t gonna be easy!” she says, as she opens the door to Gruff’s shack.
Gruff is still sleeping.
Red takes a seat on the edge of the bed and stares at the ceiling.
“Sure as me beard be red, Melias took ’em all on some grand adventure. Fer some reason, though, stayin’ behind jus’ felt right. Fated, or somethin’. They have their part ta play and Red – well – Red has ‘er part.”
To be continued . . .
To be continued . . .
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