Red’s Part, Part Two
A loud knock at the door wakes Red.
Gruff stirs and rolls over, still asleep.
Whole lotta good he’d be campin’ inna woods, she thinks, as she pulls open the door.
“Hello, Mistress Cobblestone, I presume?” a smartly dressed middle-aged man asks, punctuating his greeting with a flourish and a bow. “I have been selected, per your neoteric inquiry at our splendiferous ASU palace, to journey to this abode to educate you in the intricacies of ASU banking and dueling laws. May I come in?”
Red allows him to pass, although she is still deciphering what he had said.
The dandy casually glances about. Discovering no table at which to sit, he plants his feet in a comfortable stance, straightens his posture, and talks and talks and talks.
Red is accustomed to Dwarven law, which covers every conceivable situation without being overly wordy.
This is overly wordy.
Dwarves, by nature, love rules. They also love directness. So, after many minutes of listening, Red interrupts the man.
“The point. Get ta th’ point,” she demands (almost nicely).
“Well, er . . . if I understand your specific situation correctly, I’d have to say there are two points.”
Red leans forward, eyes fixed on the man, so he will fully understand she is losing patience with his lengthy explanations.
“Uh, yes – first, there is no ‘blood for blood’ law in ASU. I believe that is what you described in your official inquiry? However, as soon as you leave the city proper, the rules of the road take precedence.”
Noticing her confusion, he further clarifies, “You can seek revenge as long as it isn’t inside the city.”
“Good,” Red says simply.
“Secondly, thirty days after the death of the last remaining share owner of banked treasure the treasure is absorbed into the bank’s holdings.”
She squints one eye and tilts her head slightly, then straightens her head and stares at him through narrowed eyes.
“I-I-In other words, if Lil Forestdweller or one of her former party members does not claim the remaining coin – and there is remaining coin, although I do not know how much – the bank keeps it,” he tells her.
Red lets the dapper man leave and sits on the edge of the bed again, pondering how to get Lil raised from the dead. She also ponders the irony of having Lil investigate her own death.
When Gruff wakes, Red asks him, “How much gold do ye think we’d be needin’ ta get someone raised from the dead?”
Gruff starts getting dressed (again) and replies, “More’n me eyes ‘ave ever beheld.”
“Alright,” Red says, “then how can we get that much gold?”
“Well, we are Dwarves. Guess we’d hafta mine fer ’bout 200 years, or so,” he answers, slowly.
“Today. That much gold today,” she clarifies.
“Can’t be done.”
Clenching her fists, Red looks away. She has to get Lil raised soon or they will bury her. Wait! She’d forgotten what was most important. Where was Lil’s body and when will she be buried?
Urgently, she asks Gruff, “Where do they keep dead bodies here?”
Gruff shivers, as he examines Red through the corner of his eye, then he says, “Follow me.”
Three hours later, Red returns to Gruff’s with Lil’s corpse. She had revoked what was referred to as ‘party rights’, which allows members from a dead adventurer’s last party to recover bodies before they are buried (for the purpose of reviving them). The process was sped up, because the clerk she dealt with had been present when Lil landed her flaming chariot in the city and recognized them both.
Gruff is not happy about the situation.
“Gruff knows metals, Red, not dead people stuff. This is disgusting,” he says, between hungry breaths.
Setting the bound corpse on the floor of his shack, he straightens his back too quickly, causing a loud cracking noise.
“Me back! Ahhh, me back!” he screams, dancing around the room.
Red rolls her eyes and ignores him.
“That was step one. Now, we have ta get ‘er up n’ runnin’ again. Where’s th’ church they say they took ‘er body from?” Red asks.
“I ain’t draggin’ ‘er there, Red!” Gruff protests.
Red rolls her eyes again, “Ye ain’t gotta, ye prissy little thing! She stays here, while we go ‘n arrange ta have ‘er raised.”
“Here? Onna floor a’ me cabin? She’s thawin’ out already, Red. She’s gonna stink in no time!”
“Ye don’t want ‘er on yer floor, then? Alright, let’s put ‘er on yer bed!” Red shouts, with absolute conviction.
Gruff opens his mouth to argue, but then answers, “Leave ‘er onna floor then.”
As they walk out, Gruff grumbles, “Ohhh, another Dwarf, I said, ‘it’ll be great ta spend time wit’ another one a’ me kind after all these years, I said . . . “
Gruff has lived in ASU for thirty years, so he is considered old news, but many in the city have never seen a female Dwarf before, so that makes Red a sort of celebrity (or a freak to be stared at – depending on the person). Many believe her to be another male Dwarf, because of her beard and demeanor, but their eyes are still drawn to her.
Walking through the streets, Red keeps her chin up and comes close to strutting. Truth be known, she believes they are admiring her beauty.
Gruff is just happy he’s not seeing the looks of horror he received while carrying Lil’s body.
The Church of Raim has no doors and no ceiling in many sections. This is odd to Red (who had lived in the enclosure of a cave almost all of her life), so she asks the first Priest she encounters about it.
The young woman answers, “Why yes, my friend, The Church of Raim is open to everyone. Doors only create a barrier. What can we do for you?”
Red eyes the Priestess skeptically, then tells her about the need to get Lil (the woman who was slain in this very church, she stresses) raised from the dead.
Her skin turning pale, the Priestess answers, “I am so sorry. Was the Druidess a companion of yours?”
Red pulls the woman aside and tells her all about Lil and their friendship.
Gruff finds a seat in a corner and falls back asleep.
The young Priestess of Raim, moved by Red’s story, asks how she can help.
“Well, Beatrice,” Red answers, “it would be great if’n someone could bring ‘er back ta th’ world a’ the livin’.”
Beatrice the Cleric looks down and nods.
Seizing the opportunity, Red tosses in another request, “One ‘a them Commune spells – where a Priest talks directly to a god – would be a big help, too.”
Beatrice continues nodding.
Red nods along with her.
The nodding continues, until Red, aggravated by all the nodding, asks, “Well?”
“’Well’ what?” Beatrice asks, innocently.
At least the nodding stopped, Red thought, but did the young woman not hear what she said?
“Can ye get me girlfriend raised and a Commune cast?”
Red with anger, Red shouts, “What do ye mean ‘no’? Yer head was waggin’ like a broke neck Orc’s head when it’s bein’ dragged down a hill!”
Beatrice makes a sour face at the dead Orc description and says, “Eewww,” then answers, “I was just agreeing that it would be great to see Lil brought back to life and if you had a Commune to help with your investigation. I don’t have the power to cast such spells! I was still waiting for you to tell me what I could do to help. Besides, we may worship the god of charity, but each of those spells would still take a donation of roughly 6,000 gold.”
Red stares at Beatrice.
It is a long, uncomfortable stare.
Beatrice wishes she can just walk away from the staring Dwarf, but she imagines Red breaking her neck if she did.
Finally, Red blurts, “Six . . . ! Each! UUGGHHH!” and stomps away.
Pulling a tired Gruff out of the church, Red marches back toward his home. “Maybe the Druids can get Lil raised,” she says, more to herself than to him.
“Well, now we could-” Gruff interrupts her. “Red, hate ta say it, but they be missin’ me at work by now. Got me own work ta do. Sorry.”
For the first time since they left the church, Red looks away from the path ahead of her. She stops and tugs her beard as she glares at Gruff. Looking into his pleading eyes, her emotion quickly changes. She nods, hugs him with one arm, then shoves him in the direction of his shop.
Within a few minutes, Red is back in Gruff’s shack staring at Lil’s lifeless form on the stone floor. She has to do something quickly. The body is already beginning to smell. It is only a matter of time before rats find their way to Lil’s rotting flesh.
Walking the bustling streets of ASU, Red is still sorting through the best course of action. She had to get out of Gruff’s shack, but the change of environment hasn’t done anything to help her thought process. She curses herself for letting anger stop her from doing a full investigation at the church, but promises herself she will return later. One venue for resolution still remains.
After receiving directions, Red strides to the bank.
The city of ASU is always overloaded with an eclectic blend of sights, sounds, and smells, but one scent Red detects one hundred yards from the bank catches her attention and causes her to ponder why it is so familiar. As she reaches to open the door to the bank, she freezes in place. The scent, the sweet, flowery scent she sensed was finally sorted in her mind and tied to a recent memory. Evenliir!
Red draws her magical battle ax, as her eyes dart about searching for anyone who might be the Evil Elven Enchantress in disguise. She doesn’t feel any fear, just the thrill of being on the edge of battle. As long as she has her former master’s powerful ax in her hands, she feels she has nothing to fear. The problem is, Evenliir can be any of them . . . or none of them.
Since no one appears to be watching or attacking her, she puts her weapon away and enters the bank.
After spending half an hour inside the bank, Red learned four things.
1. The bank has a massive vault which was built by Dwarves back before she was born.
2. Lil’s treasure cannot be withdrawn by anyone, except Lil or one of her former party members.
3. Lil said very little when she made her withdrawal. She simply placed the coins and gems in her backpack and walked out.
4. Like most men, the head banker found Lil an enticingly beautiful woman.
“Back ta the hope the Druids can raise ‘er,” Red mumbles, as she plods back toward Gruff’s home.
It is not because her head is lowered that Red walks past Gruff’s shack. She can’t face the thought of returning to Lil’s body without a way to raise her. Wandering aimlessly through the city, her thoughts primarily focus on the strong bond she and Lil had made in such a short time. Lil had accepted her without question and although Lil had just lost all of her friends (as Red also had), she was able to stay in good spirits. The girl was fun! Much more fun than the dry, humorless Dwarven women Red has known. She had also taught Red something entirely foreign to her: the concept that she could have sexual relations with someone without first being wed to them. It was a liberating viewpoint and one Red quickly embraced and acted upon. Why shouldn’t she? She is young and well-muscled with the sort of plump figure men find attractive, not to mention the wonderfully coarse beard and body hair of which she is so proud.
“Who wouldn’t lust after Red?” she whispers, punctuating the point with a wink to a handsome woodworker as she passes his shop.
The woodworker (who has never seen a Dwarf of either sex) is startled by the wink from what he thinks is a hairy, little man. Then he shrugs, considering it a compliment, regardless of his sexual orientation.
A few steps later, it occurs to Red that she has never seen the woodworker before. She must be far from the shack by now. In fact, she has no idea where she is. She stops and looks around, searching for something familiar. It is something new that catches her attention, though. A shop across the street from the woodshop is trading gold for magic items. If only she had been able to find more magical items on her latest adventure, then she would be able to trade for enough gold to get Lil raised. Then, another idea enters her mind. She can sell her body. Prostitution is not illegal in ASU and she enjoys sex. It seems like the perfect plan. Plus, it would be apropos, since it will be to raise Lil, the woman who taught her about sex.
She uses her fingers to comb the lint and crumbs out of her beard and loosens the top two buttons of her shirt to reveal her fuzzy, red cleavage.
A likely target appears before her. A young Wizard-type – likely a virgin. She strolls over to him and grabs ahold of the front of his robe. Jerking him down to her eye level, she whispers, “They say once ye had a Dwarf woman, it ruins ye fer th’ other races.”
The young Mage’s face turns cloud white and (unable to break free of the powerful Dwarf’s hold) he tries desperately to spot a member of the city guard.
“Well? Fer just 3,000 gold ye can have the time a’ yer life.”
“3,000?” the man repeats. “I don’t have 3,000 gold. I don’t even have the two coppers a Human whore costs.”
“Two copper?” Red repeats. “It’d take 300,000 rolls inna hay ta make enough gold ta get Lil raised at that rate.”
She grips his robe tighter, purses her lips, and looks to the side, as she tries to calculate how long that would take.
“Sorry, fella, guess ye’ll hafta miss out. Red just quit th’ sex trade,” she says, as she releases him.
So, to the eternal thanks of young Morv the Abjurer, thus ended the short prostitution career of Red Cobblestone.
Sitting on the edge of the porch of a nearby inn, Red holds her head in her hands and considers her next move. Slowly, she stands and walks to the Wizards trading magical items. She places the magic battleax on the counter and waits for them to test its magical properties.
Half an hour later she returns to the Gruff’s with more than enough gold to have her friend raised, but without the magical weapon that had been in her dead master Bloody Blade Orcbane’s family for 1,500 years. She prays to Corma, god of Dwarves, asking for a sign telling her she has made the wisest decision.
The answer will come, eventually.
To be continued . . .
To be continued . . .
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