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Games, Literature

Foundering Valley – Chapter 31, Thursday Morning, June 12 – Bon Voyage

Chapter 31 – Thursday Morning, June 12 – Bon Voyage

 When Doug came out to open the South Bridge Gate that morning, he was stunned to see a small encampment waiting for him across the bridge. It was not at all clear who was guarding whom, but the group included 2 Elves, 6 humans (four of whom were showing signs of being werewolves, and two of them were struggling in nets), 10 Trogs (two of whom were showing signs of being werewolves, and one of whom had bloody bandages around his head), and a tin man.

 Sir Richard had the guard duty and just stood there, staring at the group through the gate.

 Three more humans came rushing up from behind. Grace pushed past both men, and pressed against the gate. “I’ve told them at the lab to expect you, and they’re in a total panic.”

 Sapphire crossed the bridge and grabbed one bar of the gate. “Are they going to be able to deal with another 6 or 7 patients?”

Grace shook her head. “Not really. They want to start in on just a couple patients, to make sure the cure works. The Charles’s are being really cooperative, and they make the perfect test cases – you know he’s showing undead signs, and she’s going werewolf?”

“Yeah, got that earlier.”

“He’s looking weak, and she’s super hungry. So they’re going to start the cure together. Started already, I think. Everybody else is going to have to wait a couple weeks, before they’re sure they have it right, though. I gather everybody here is being cooperative?’

Sapphire nodded. “Except the two boys, of course. They obviously need to go in the lockup with Spud at the lab. The rest are happy to cooperate, and don’t really need to be locked up or anything.”

Grace smiled and shook her head. “It’s really needed — for their own good. The townsfolk are not going to be happy with a troop of werewolves camping out on Market Square. They’re anxious enough already.”

“Okay then, the three kids need a cell, Dr. Gnoll needs his own cell, and the Charles’s are there for treatment, but they can be together. The only other lockups are in the jailhouse. I think we need to separate them into groups. But maybe the Chief better get tested first – his injury is fresh and might take a different treatment. I suppose that Bloody’s minions will just have to wait their turn in their crypt?”

Grace frowned. “Yeah, I think so.”

Sapphire nodded. “Is that everybody?”

Grace whistled. “Sounds like a plan. I’ll go talk to the lab. D-Stract, you better go butter up Chief Grief.”

D-Stract gave a mock salute. “On my way!” The two ladies turned and hurried down the road past the church.

Flummox stepped up beside Doug and Sir Richard. “Hadn’t you gentlemen better open up the gate? You don’t want to keep these gentlefolk waiting here, do you? They might get mad or something.” Doug stamped his foot and sputtered, but Sir Richard produced the key and opened the gate.

 Achilles banged the butt of his spear loudly on the stone bridge. “Listen up, people! Sapphire here is going to tell you what to do.”

Sapphire hopped up on the stone side of the bridge. “Okay, we’re going to split up into groups. Snipe, please explain to Chopper and Basher that the four sick folk are going to have to sleep in cells at the jail, just so that the townsfolk won’t get nervous. Their every need will be taken care of, and they’ll be afforded every liberty, but only with escorts for their protection. Also, I’d thank you to ask Lucifer to have anyone not staying to simply escort the four werewolves to the Town Hall, then exit as a group as quickly as possible. The Chief, on the other hand, will want to go to the lab for immediate attention. Delft and Rudy, you should share a cell next door to Chopper and Basher. Okay, did I forget anybody?”

 Snipe exchanged some words with the Trogs, then turned back. “Some of the Trogs will carry the kids, but we need your spear back, if that’s okay, Achilles.”

Achilles offered him the spear, butt first. “Of course.”

Sapphire beckoned. “The ones carrying the kids follow me.”

The small army headed down the road, past the church. The market was full of surprised entertainers, who stopped what they were doing and stared as the group marched past.

 Rita tried to block their way just outside the Town Hall. “You can’t bring those guys in here.”

 Animus just laughed at her. “We have six or seven hungry werewolves here. Where else would you suggest we keep them?” Rita just stood in the middle of the road, eyes wide open, while everyone filed past her on both sides.

 As Cleo passed her, she tapped Rita’s shoulder. “Cheer up! You’re going to have a bunch of extra company for the next month or two.”

Before long, everyone was situated, fed, and the seven healthy Trogs reversed course and headed back home.

  Delft and Rudy were soon approached in their cell and engaged in conversation by their old friend, Chief Grief, who wanted to compare notes about their experience with the disease.

  Chopper and Basher settled into the adjoining cell, seemingly satisfied to have full bellies. Chopper tried to strike up a conversation with Rita, but lacking a common language, she quickly gave it up as a lost cause. Hound then came in and asked them, in goblin tongue, to fill him in on conditions in Caves 1 and 2. They quickly relaxed and compared and contrasted the tunnels in back of each cave.

 In the lab, Gray and Chap were happy to be out of their nets. Spud seemed greatly cheered by the arrival of his friends, and the three of them quieted down and acted like happy dogs, sniffing and playing with one another.

The Chief seemed rather uncomfortably out of place in the castle laboratory. He sat at the conference table and looked around rather fiercely. Almost everyone shrank out of sight.

 Everyone except Nurse Scrubs, that is, who appeared out of nowhere and made him take his swords off the table and remove his muddy boots, which she whisked away, to his bemusement. She then escorted him into a side room, made him sit on a cot, rebandaged his wound, stuck a thermometer in his mouth when he opened it to talk, listened to his heart, and took a blood sample.

 Dr. Zhivaga got his blood tested right away. “There are a very few tiny purple cells in your blood, but I think we’ll be able to stop them early. You’ll be fine after about three or four days of bed rest, with no food. That should do the trick, I imagine – your normal cell structure is still intact. Sorry we don’t have any more barred rooms, but then I expect you’ll be fine right here.”

Grace poked her head into the room. “You know he doesn’t understand a word of common tongue, don’t you?” She laughed at the Doctor’s expression. “Don’t worry, I’ll explain it all to him.”

Zhivaga shook her head ruefully. “I wish there was someone who could explain it all to me.”

Grace wrinkled her nose. “Don’t we all?”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 Flummox stood on the dock, watching the loading of the Buccaneer. There really wasn’t much cargo going on board, except the personal belongings of the departing adventurers. His gaze wandered to the Narwhal. He shook his head. It would be some time before she was seaworthy.

 “Okay guys, let’s get on board and leave these losers behind.” Flummox’s attention returned to the gangplank of the Narwhal. The brashest of the beach bums was staring at Flummox even though he supposedly was addressing the other men. “These suckers don’t know a lost cause when they see it. There’s nothing left here for us, but they’re going to stick around and pretend that they’re heroes. Isn’t that sad, boys?”

 A half-dozen men at arms were trooping up the gangplank behind him. “Right, Butch. We don’t want those losers with us anyway.”

Butch sneered at Flummox. “Too stupid to know a lost cause when they see one. Must be lost causes themselves.” The men laughed. With that, Butch turned and followed the others up the gangplank.

 One last figure approached the gangplank, and turned towards Flummox. “Do you remember me?”

Flummox nodded. “Of course.”

“Well, you tell your magic-wielding friends that Maladicto knows what they are up to. If they think they can hog the power of those elementals, they are fools. You may have gotten me removed from this place, for now, but I will be back, and I know now what to prepare for. Revenge will be sweet.” Maladicto spit on the dock, and headed up the gangplank.

Flummox let his artificial smile relax. “Good riddance to bad rubbish.” He turned around, and nearly walked into the person who had been standing behind him.

 Mr. Larsen backed up fast. “Slow up there, buster, where’s da fire?”

“So are you boarding the Buccaneer too?”

Larsen shook his head. “I don’t know nuthin’ about that there City. ‘Sides, I know when I’ve got a good thing by the tail. I got me a cushy job — right here.”

“With that lot gone, the need for town security goes with them.”

“Nah, I’m not talkin’ ‘bout bein’ on no goon squad. You’re lookin’ at the new agent for Lord Ironhand an’ da Lady.” He stuck a thumb behind his suspenders and struck a pose.

Flummox raised his eyebrows. “What? But we have a contract!”

Larsen nodded. “And I’m here to enforce it. I got me a nice office in da Town Hall, an’ the Earl is lettin’ us have some storage space in those old wood buildings safe inside da castle – for da extra stuff not in dat contract, of course. They’s leavin’ some wood, rope, ironmongery, stuff like that. No more food — they need all dat for dem passengers.”

“But I don’t understand. We’re giving Ironhand an exclusive contract on the gem trade, for the forseeable future. We’re going to honor that agreement. Nothing will be leaving the valley without him, in any event.”

Larsen smiled. “Ah, but just how much will be leavin’? I’ll have da time between trips to make sure Ironhand’s goods bring in da best prices. Da law of supply and demand, ya know. Don’t want da townsfolk holding too much back, to get da top quality merch an’ all.”

Flummox shook his head. “You amaze me. Well, it’s not my problem. We opened the door and now it’ between them – you, I guess, now – and the townsfolk. You’ll be dealing with the Earl, not me.”

Larsen offered a hand. “I’m glad you seen it my way. But I’m sure we’ll be findin’ ways ta do business from time to time, a smart guy like you.”

Flummox gave a forced smile. “Of course.” He shook the offered hand, headed back towards the dock gate, and wiped his hand on his trousers.

As flummox passed through the dock gate, he stepped aside to allow another party of adventurers to pass – two hobbits, a dwarf, and two lady warriors. To his annoyance, they spread out in front of him, and he had to stop.

The hobbit carrying a light crossbow spoke first. “Flummox? We were told to speak to you. We don’t want to go on the ship. We had nothing to do with what happened to those three ruffians, and it’s not fair that we’re being pushed out.”

Flummox took a breath. “The problem, as I see it, is that you lot have nothing to do, just sitting around playing with all those weapons and waiting for trouble. The townsfolk are nervous about it. This is not punishment for getting rid of those thugs – which I for one am thankful about. No, this is about preventing further trouble. With nothing to do, you look like vagrants. Idle hands are the devil’s workshop and all that.”

“That’s just it! We do have things to do. Gnosh there is going to help out Gorbag and Grog with their plans for a glass works.”

The other hobbit tugged her forelock. “Yeah, and we’re going to help the little people. Besides, Aster and I hate the water. I’m Bramble, by the way.”

Flummox frowned. “The ‘little people’? Are you talking about Spamwich?”

Aster and Bramble exchanged glances. “Yeah, sure, we’re going to help Spamwich. And whoever else needs us.”

The blonde lady with sword and shield broke in. “Smoke and I don’t mind the water. We just don’t want to be lumped in with that macho bunch of thugs going out on the Buccaneer. We want to join the crew of the Narwhal.”

The brunette, with sword and torches stuck in her belt, took the other’s arm. “Cinder and I are pretty crafty. We can speed up the refit operation, and help with any later repairs after she’s seaworthy.”

Flummox shrugged. “You’ll have to talk with Captain Flang about that. Look folks, there is nobody forcing you to board the Buccaneer. I’m not in charge or anything, but if you ask me, if you look like you’re pitching in, and not a bunch of troublemakers, nobody’s going to worry about you.”

The group sighed with relief, and loosened up. “That’s great. Thank you so much!” They turned and started toward the inn.

Flummox muttered at the ground. “But I didn’t do anything.” Suddenly he looked up and raised his voice. “Just a minute, Aster and Bramble! May I have a word?”

The two hobbits returned, eyebrows raised.

Flummox looked from one to the other. “Um, I don’t know how to say this. I recognize an evasive answer when I see it. Just what ‘little people’ were you really talking about?”

The hobbits exchanged glances. Aster leaned on her crossbow with both hands, and took a contemplative posture. “Well, that’s a long and complicated story. It is rather difficult to put my finger on how best to start. Now, if my uncle Thaddeus were here, he’d have no trouble at all finding the words. He was the kind of fellow that…”

Flummox waved his hands. “Would it help if I asked if these ‘little people’ had fur and tails?”

Aster blinked. “Why, yes in fact, they do.”

Flummox nodded. “So you’ve met the mouslings. Which ones?”

Bramble gave a piercing look. “The two that stowed away on the caravan, of course. We’ve been talking with them this whole time. Have you been talking with those others, that they warned us away from?”

Flummox laughed. “Talk about a long and complicated story! Let’s head over to the inn and swap details.”

Bramble nodded. “Yes, let’s! Beryl has very good ale, there.”

Aster nodded more vigorously. “And he has some of Grog’s mulled wine – that’s my favorite.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~

 I was in a deep trance in my room at the inn, observing remotely as usual, when there came a knock on my door. None of my seven special helpers would approach me this way without my knowing in advance, so I was surprised. I rose and opened the door slowly.

 There stood the female monk from the group on the beach. She pressed her palms together and bowed, exposing her cleavage, and held the pose as she spoke. “Master, if I may beg a moment of your time for this humble one.”

I stepped aside. “Come in. Please, relax.”

She looked at me nervously. “I have heard of your wisdom, Master. I have heard too that those on the beach are to return with the ship. I do not want to go. I wish to stay here, as your bodyguard.”

I laughed. “What makes you think I need a bodyguard?”

She looked at him shyly. “Still, I would serve you, however you wish. And perhaps I could learn from you.”

“That’s a pretty broad statement. And I do notice that your robe is slipping open in the front.”

“I wish to be close to you.”

“What do you know of Kundalini Yoga and the Kama Sutra?”

“Nothing, my master.”

I smiled. “Perhaps there are some things I can teach you then, my dear. Close that door.”

~~~~~~~~

 The adventurers sat around a table at the inn. Flummox smiled around at the group. “Well, the Buccaneer sets sail in one hour. That will put one part of the story to bed. And those two over there…” He pointed at a table in the corner where two hobbits were sampling a number of mugs. “… should be some help with the last really big problem – getting those mouslings to deal with the elementals and then clear out of here. Rufus, Sapphire, I think that task will fall on you two magic users.”

D-Stract shook her head. “Don’t forget rescuing Caboose from the Lizard tribes, and dealing with Dr. Green and the Visitor. That’s probably our job. And maybe Animus, to help track them.”

Cleo stroked her bow. “And mine. I really don’t like that creep. But first I think we need to worry about that injured wolf that got away. I’m afraid the whole cycle will start again if he’s infected and left to spread the disease.”

Rufus cleared his throat. “I think my help will be needed getting the road crews started. I think I’ve got Trixie and Duncan working together – she’ll be quite a help. If I can get Tootsie helping load some of that rock up at the old mine, we’ll have a lot of the materials we need.”

Cleo nodded. “Grace could probably get the Trogs to loan you Strong, that cave troll. He’d be a big help.”

Grace leaned forward. “Well, I’m helping Nurse Scrubs and Dr. Zhivaga set up a hospital ward in the lab. They’re starting with Dan and Dora, to make sure of their protocols, and then they’re going to have a lot of patients all at once. Everything looks like it’s on track to clean everybody up.”

Cleo knit her brow. “How are the Charles’s doing?”

Grace dipped her head slowly. “Well, he’s definitely going full blown undead, and has lost his appetite. She’s devouring most of his food as well as her own, as she’s gone full werewolf on us. But, they’re both calm and rational, and cooperating completely.”

Rufus raised a finger. “And Bloody’s minions?”

Grace shook her head. “They’ll just have to wait their turn. The werewolves are going to be quite a handful for now. But anyway, they’re all sleeping it off in the Wither’s crypt – no rush to get to them.”

Sapphire sighed. “Well, there is no shortage of things to do.”

Grace brightend up. “But on the plus side, we’re on track to finish everything the angels asked of us. It feels good to be on top of things for a change, and have plans.”

Flummox stood up. “Well, the Buccaneer is setting sail. Last chance for anybody who wants to bail out…? Of course, I wouldn’t give much for the company on board.”

The gang filtered out the door and headed across the road to the Dock Gate.

~~~~~~~

 Captain Flang stood by the Narwhal and watched the Buccaneer make ready. Many of the townsfolk and palace guards were scattered along the dock, hoping to watch the Buccaneer raise her sails. A few of the crew were tending to the lines, and paused to speak to the people standing about.

 Jugs wrapped her arms around Captain Flang and gave him a full-bodied kiss that lasted over a minute, while onlookers hooted and whistled. Jugs turned and hurried off to the ship, and Captain Flang blushed red and hid his face.

 Lady Luna spoke to Sapphire. “If you see Punk, our missing cabin boy, tell him I kinda miss him. He was a funny kid.”

“I will. I’m sure he’ll turn up.”

“I’ll bet.” Luna winked and boarded the ship.

 Gimp approached Flummox. “I sure wish you would have put some extra lines in that contract you whipped up with Ironhand. Would it have hurt to mention something about worker’s rights and medical benefits? We’re thinking we might have to form a union, you know.”

Flummox smiled. “Good luck with that. Maybe I can slip something in next time around.”

Gimp saluted and headed for the ship.

 Boomer approached Animus. “I hear you’re quite the one for getting rid of vermin. I tell ya, I really thought a charge of black powder woulda done the trick with those crab monsters. They just wouldn’t let me try it, see. Too close to the ship, they said. But you mark my words, it would work, I know it would. We’re leaving a lot of powder with that Larsen fellow. Let me know how it works.”

Animus nodded. “Will do.” Boomer clumped up the gangplank and took his station.

 Ironhand approached the group with a hawk perched on his shoulder. “Well, it looks like this is it. Time to shove off.” Rufus flinched and backed away.

Ironhand looked surprised. “What, you don’t like Parrot?” He looked embarrassed. “Yeah, that’s his name. Don’t blame me, he already had it when the old coot passed and stuck me with him. You don’t like birds?”

Rufus shook his head. “No, I love birds, it’s just that, well, um…” He choked up.

Cleo stepped forward. “Rufus used to have two pigeons, that were really dear to him. That bird of yours killed one of them.”

Ironhand frowned. “Did you do that, Parrot? Say you’re sorry to the nice man.” He got the hawk to shift to his wrist, and held it out towards Rufus. The bird hopped to Rufus’s shoulder and rubbed his beak across the sorcerer’s ear. “Hey look, he likes you!”

Rufus ran a hand down the bird’s neck. “Parrot. What a name for such a noble animal.” He clicked his tongue at the bird, who then rubbed his head against Rufus’s cheek.

Ironhand smiled. “Hey, he really does like you. Tell you what, to make amends, and as a gesture of peace and goodwill, he’s yours. I know you’ll take good care of him, and bog knows you’ll pay him more attention than I ever did.” Rufus’s eyes filled with tears and he could only nod his head.

Flummox offered Ironbound his hand. “A wonderful symbol of peace and trust in our future relations. Bon Voyage.”

Ironhand shook on it. “And good luck to you. We’ll be back in a few weeks. And now, we’re off!” He turned and sprang up the gangplank, as the sailors threw off the last ropes, pushed away, and began to raise the sails. A cheer went up from the townsfolk as the sails billowed out.

The adventurers stood on the docks, watching the Buccaneer sail off toward Monolith Mountain, giving the sand bar a wide berth.

Flummox nodded. “So that’s the end of that.”

~~~~~

{END OF BOOK ONE.}

{Link to Chapter 32 – The Beginning of Book 2}

 

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