Chapter 7: Little Red
Dafnord spends a pleasant day shopping in the lower town with Findriel. She's helping him pick out gifts for a certain pixie member of the crew he offended recently. As they shop, he carefully notes which items that his lover lingers over, planning to return at a later date for additional gifts.
Over dinner, our heroes discuss where they should go to find provisions for the ship. They don't reach any conclusions, so at the end of the meal, Robbie goes to the kitchen once more and asks after Cook. After a short wait, she comes out of the kitchen, wiping her hands on her apron, asking how she can be of assistance. Robbie explains that the crew is wondering where they should get provisions for the expedition to find Tom Noon.
Cook looks at him quizzically, and after a brief pause says patiently, Many come to the kitchen. What do you need?
Well, food and drink for 1, 2, 3, & 8 people. For approximately 2 weeks. And do any of you have any skill a preparing meals, or should I provide pre-measured bags of porridge?
While Robbie is reasonably sure that he can't burn water, he has no skill at cooking, having been a robot most of his existence. The usual preoccupied stare comes over his face as he queries his companions over the telepathy net. Markel admits to being a reasonable scratch-cook. When he relays this to Cook, she's visibly relieved, and agrees to provision the expedition, along with utensils, pots, pans, etc. Robbie thanks her and departs for the evening.
Meanwhile, Dafnord has gone out to the garden clearing to practice with Umbra, the Sword of Chaos Twilight. Taking off his shirt prior to a series of stretches, he notes that there's a cooling mist floating in the air from the nearby Lightfall, and wonders if the water condensing from the air will make his skin glow. And perhaps a particular fair elf maiden will happen by...
In the morning, Dafnord describes the items that had attracted Findriel to Salimar. There was the silver snood, with moonstones. And the fine hair combs and brushes in silver and pearl. And the hair sticks, silver and emerald. And...
Salimar interrupts the recitation, And of course you're going to present this gift with a poem expressing what you feel for this woman, hand written on fine paper, right?
Dafnord clearly hadn't planned any such thing, but agrees that it's a good idea. He and Salimar head down to the lower town to select the gift and accessorize it.
After breakfast, Markel heads to the kitchen with a bundle under his arm and asks to speak with Cook. He introduces himself, and she brightens at once "Ah! You're the one that cooks." Markel agrees, and Cook starts listing the provisions she's begun gathering. Markel suggests a few modifications, along with some additional spices he'd like, which Cook agrees to.
Then they start discussing the utensils. Cook explains that she usually gives camping and hunting expeditions like this castoffs from the kitchen, since it's not worthwhile to send new out into the field where they'll be lost, or misused and abused, and invites Markel to come out back to the closet where the castoffs are kept to choose what he'd like. As Cook watches, Markel pokes throught the pile. As he searches, he describes the kind of pan he's looking for, which is very like a wok. Cook reaches into the pile and pulls out a pan, which is exactly what he's looking for.
Which brings them to cooking utensils. Markel describes the kinds of knives he's looking for, and Cook admits that she doesn't have anything that would fit the bill. But she does direct him to a Dwarven smith here in high town who should be able to outfit him with blades.
Markel thanks her, and then presents the bundle he's been carrying to her. When she opens it, she finds a soft leather apron. As she tries it on, Markel explains that its dragon leather, from his dragon's last molt. Cook is obviously pleased by the generous gift.
Returning to his room, Markel examines a second apron, debating if it's too large for a Dwarf. Of course, like Humans, Dwarves vary in size (and width). After considering the ties at the sides and top, he decides that its adjustable enough and folds it into a surprisingly small bundle, and ties it closed with the apron's own ties.
Daphne (the offended pixie), Moranna, and Daewen descend from Daewen's retreat with the silverwood components they've been constructing for the airship. They'll hold the water from the Lightfall to act as our magical energy source, and need to be married to the airship. But first they need to cast the spell that will cause the inside of the hold to be bigger than the outside of the airship. A key component of the spell is the stairs that Tethycles has been working on to their specification which are normal sized at the hatch and much smaller and narrower than normal when they reach the floor of the hold. The working of this spell takes them until lunchtime. Wandering though the shops after the meal, Daphne stumbles upon an exotic spice shop, where she and the proprietor settle in for some serious haggling interspersed with discussion about the uses of the various spices over cups of sweet tea and a plate of baklava almost as wide as the pixie is tall.
Waving to his dragon sunning himself on top of the flat-roofed castle tower, Markel sets out for the Dwarven smithy, following Cook's directions. The location is hard to miss, due to the giant cleaver hanging over the door, and the ringing sound of metal being hammered into shape. Entering the shop, Markel finds the smith working on a knife, which glows a dull red against the anvil and jumps with each rhythmic blow from the hammer. Markel calls Hello. But there's no letup in the work. Shrugging, Markel begins to examine the finished work displayed on the walls.
Suddenly there's a hiss as the Smith quenches the blade in a bucket of water. Markel turns to the Smith as he pulls two plugs out of his ears. "Sorry, I didn't hear you when you came in. How may I help you?"
Markel describes the knives he's looking for. The Smith points out two that will do in the display case, but says he'll have to make the other pair. Markel then explains that we're preparing an airship for an expedition to find Tom Noon and are hoping to leave in two days. The Smith strokes his beard and says he's not sure he can finish the two new knives in time, but he'll try.
Markel then and asks for tools to repair the airship. The Smith can supply those, too, out of stock. How about lanterns? The Smith doesn't make those, but his brother in the lower town does. He gives Markel directions.
Markel thanks him, and presents him with the second bundle. The smith fingers the leather and looks at Markel. "This is dragonskin, isn't it?"
"Yes, it's from my dragons last molt. It should protect you from the fire of the forge."
Still fingering the leather, the smith says, "That's a mighty generous gift. You look a bit... human."
Markel grins. "Yes, I've been told that."
The smith turns to a counter and pulls out a piece of foolscap and writes a note on it. "Give this to my brother. I've made some suggestions for your lanterns."
Markel thanks the smith and heads towards the path to the lower town. The slope is pretty steep, so the path switches back and forth. Deciding that staying on the path would triple the distance to the lower town, Markel takes a more direct route, through the woods. Unfortunately a rock slips out from under his foot on a particularly steep section and he slides down the side of the hill. When he comes to a stop against a tree, other than being winded and a bit banged up, he's OK. But, before he can catch his breath and get up, a large wolf attacks him and lunges at his throat.
The dragon bellows in anger and fear and dives off the tower. Kate, who's been reading in her room, sees it go by and reaches out telepathically. She picks up an image of Markel with a large beast at his throat, and sends it out over the net to the rest of the crew.
Kate and Salimar (in the lower town, shopping with Dafnord) dowse for Markel in the hope of being able to triangulate on him.
Robbie, who was working on the airship, lofts and heads towards the path to the high town at top speed. Gannar follows.
Dafnord drops the bauble he'd been examining and starts running towards Markel.
Daphne flits out of the spice shop and lands in the nearest tree (which isn't very far; this is an elvish town) and concentrates on asking the forest to help Markel.
Salimar lobs a brain cocktail in the direction of Markel, hoping to hit the wolf.
Daphne gets an impression of willingness to help, but confusion about what's to be done. She asks again, more strongly this time.
Robbie sees a section of the forest shaking, and dives feet first, planning to knock the wolf off of Markel. When he breaks through the canopy, he finds the wolf snapping and clawing at the vines that are holding it in the air. He vears aside, and finds Markel on the ground in a puddle of blood, with his throat torn open and his head at an unnatural angle. Nearby is another motionless figure, also torn-up and bleeding.
As Robbie lands, Daewen fades in, becoming more visible as she runs further into the clearing, towards the wolf. She's holding her sword at the ready and it whistles through the air as she swings it to cut the wolf in two. And misses, since the wolf is no longer there. The dragon has stooped on the wolf like a hawk on a squirrel and snatched it out of the vines that had it imprisoned. Well, most of the wolf, anyway. Flapping heavily, it labors to pull out of its dive. Unfortunately, it's not going to make it. Daphne sees its predicament through the net and asks the forest to help by catching the dragon in a nest. The confused dragon finds itself on its back, in a nest, with the remains of the wolf in heaped pieces below it.
While Daewen catches herself, Robbie asks over the net who in the group has the portable autodoc, and where it is. Kate runs to Dafnord's room (just down the hall from her room) to find it. Once Daewen stops spinning, Robbie calls out "Autodoc. Wardrobe in Dafnords room next to the window." Daewen stops and takes a deep breath. Then looking serene, she calmly puts away her sword and steps behind a tree.
Kate (who has doctoring skills) helps Robbie (who does not) apply ectoplastic bandages to Markel, carefully keeping from blocking the all-important air passages and blood vessels. Once Markel is bandaged to the best of their ability, Robbie turns to the second figure on the ground and does the best he can to staunch the bleeding.
Dafnord arrives at the scene to find a dragon in a nest in the trees. He looks at it again, closely. Yup. That's Markels dragon. In a nest. Looking pained and unhappy. And that looks like blood dripping from its talons. And that heap of bloody meat and fur nearby looks like the remains of a wolf. In pieces. It's really and sincerely dead. Dafnord continues running towards Markel.
Arriving in Dafnord's room, Daewen finds Kate pulling the autodoc, which looks like a silvery rolled up sleeping bag, from the wardrobe. Daewen smiles, takes the autodoc from Kate's hands, steps into the wardrobe, and closes the door behind her.
Dafnord runs up to Robbie, Umbra held at the ready. He scans for fighting. Finding none, he drops to one knee, chest heaving heroically, still scanning for trouble.
Daewen steps into the clearing from one side, and Moranna steps into the clearing from the other simultaneously. Daewen tosses the autodoc to Moranna, and drops to one knee near Dafnord, chest still heaving heroically. She pulls a ring off her necklace and grips it in one hand. The ring vanishes, and she breathes much easier. She then pulls a second ring off and hands it to Dafnord. When it vanishes, he looks up in surprise, also breathing easier.
Robbie takes the autodoc from Moranna and stuffs it on Markels head. The console on the bag lights and it starts working on its patient. Then a warning icon lights. The autodoc is dangerously low on various proteins, minerals, etc. Basically, it's been healing us and we haven't been reloading it. On previous adventures, wed fed the autodoc our defeated foes to replenish its stores. Robbie puts a tube into the nearest puddle of blood and flies over to the remains of the wolf, lofts it and offers it to the autodoc. It's not happy with the blood (too much debris) but it will accept the wolf carcass. The meat turns gray, and then seems to settle in on itself. Robbie does his best not to watch. (Icky organics...)
From her perch in the tree, Daphne attempts to calm the forest. Which isn't hard, since forests tend to be calm. She then reaches for the dragon to calm it, and fails.
Salimar reaches for the dragon telepathically, and finds it struggling to get out of the nest, upset at being on its back, in pain from having its wing fold wrong underneath it, and VERY worried about Markel. She calms it. Once the dragon stops struggling, it manages to roll onto its side and drops out of the nest, to the ground. It immediately flies to Markel.
Dafnord and Daewen just have time to dive into the trees as the dragon lands. Moranna scoops up the other victim of the wolf, and backs out of the way. Robbie is across Markel from the dragon when it lands. When the dragon makes as if to pull the autodoc off of Markel, Robbie yells "No!" and interposes himself between the dragon and the autodoc. Suddenly he finds himself across the clearing, against a tree. Not hurt, but not where he was a moment ago, either. The dragon snarls as Salimar tries to calm it. It sniffs at the autodoc, and then curls into a circle around it, hissing. Robbie really wants to check the console, and sends an eye over to take a look.
The dragon watches the eye coming, and its head strike out, biting the eye out of the air. Robbie gasps, and Daewen asks, "Those are part of you, aren't they?" Robbie nods. "I wouldn't do that too much if I were you."
Robbie can only nod again. He tries to send a second sight viewpoint to take a look, but fails, and mutters, "But I really want to make sure that the autodoc is OK."
Daewen looks at him, and then turns her head towards the dragon. As she turned away, Robbie could have sworn her face disappeared. As she turned back, her face returned, and she said, "It's healing him."
Moranna comes out of the trees, with the other victim. "Do we have another autodoc? Mother and I are too exhausted to do another witchwalk. Can anyone fly?"
Robbie takes the small figure from her arms and flies towards the castle, telepathing to Kate to locate the castle doctor. Kate has him land in the main courtyard of the castle where the doctor is waiting for him.
Last Updated: 7-Oct-06
©2004 Barry Tannenbaum, All Rights Reserved