Part One: The Story Begins, the Previous Three Being Introduction
As I pivoted to alert Eerie through the slamming door, the butt of a pistol appeared screen right. I grabbed the attached wrist, clamped on, and dug in with a long, sturdy thumb nail, my weapon of choice when without my toolbox. The thug grunted and dropped his gun.
The other two elbowed each other with amusement insulting to my skills. I said, “If you kill me, you’ll never get a ransom. Don’t knock me out either. Coming to in strange dungeons makes me cranky.”
Negotiators from way back perhaps as far back as the dawn of time and the birth of the Old Ones, my captors compromised by plastic cuffing my wrists thoughtfully in front and dragging me feet first. My goodness, that took me back decades. I bellowed an off-key chorus from a protest song.
Hairs in their ears quivered. “Silence. Stop before we are forced to violence.”
I complied. The situation was perilous enough.
Towed downward past dripping stone walls pressing ever closer, bumping over increasingly rough and cobbled floors giving way to dank, puddled earth, I recognized a design document of Charlie’s pinned by a kīla to a crack in the mortar between two stones on the mossy wall. Below it on a chain wrapped chest sat a notebook and ballpoint. I whipsawed; my bound hands snagged the journal.
The goons argued over whether to let me keep the equipment and settled on protecting their eyes by removing only the pen.
Alone in an electronically sealed chamber, I sawed the restraints on the rough edges of iron shackles on a skeleton, possibly the remains of a sea captain, then skimmed my newly acquired diary.
It contained: a selection of music allowing me to choose from Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, traditional folk, or John Cage (the last not accessible without a code); a glossy shareholder meeting promotional pamphlet on the offworld origins and earthly development of Breakable Shelving; an unfinished map with handsome cartography that I could add to once I escaped; and a trick latch concealing a multitool with all the usual implements plus a ferro rod firestarter, flashlight, whistle, and lockpick. Glancing up, I zapped a nosey dragon.
Keeping the correct tool extended presented a puzzle. When I conquered the sequence, I discovered the lockpick was no match for the state of the art door, of course and wouldn’t you know, but behind a loose stone level with a thin mattress in the corner gleamed a pickable lock that opened a passage just large enough to make it through on all fours.
Was this all too convenient? – a thought to explore later.
I crawled the short distance toward light from an opening into the adjacent room where flames from wall-mounted cressets billowed and shifted illuminating a vast cathedral ceilinged grotto. As the light stabilized, I saw in the center an elaborate and likely booby-trapped command post, ringed by mounds of unorganized treasure in turn circled by oversize statues of mythical animals so detailed they might have been sculpted from life.
Portals, each different from the next, dotted the walls. From one of these on the opposite side of the rotunda, a shadowy silhouetted figure sporting the outline of a 17th century collar and short romper-like breeches emerged then vanished behind a Heidrun goat nibbling a vine.
I snatched a recumbent Anubis from a palanquin and concealed myself under the wings of a wyvern. Sneaking from wyvern to phoenix to basilisk to goat until I came up behind my prey, I coshed him with Anubis which bent in half at the impact, cracked, and spilled out a signet ring as the intruder buckled and went down. Jewels from beneath the spot he landed rolled and refracted light onto the side of his face.
Grabbing the signet ring before a crow from nowhere could fly off with it, I said, “Charlie?”
He mumbled a response without regaining full consciousness.
Devil the Third trotted in through an irising portal, gave me a quick kiss hello, then set to licking Charlie’s cheeks industriously.
As a seasoned operative, I knew exactly what to do in this family emergency. I ransacked both Charlie and a nearby sarcophagus, locating:
Crushed herbs in a bowl,
A circus wagon, a flagon, a mare with a foal,
A double-griffin choker, a tarot card joker,
Two knights in battle, a medieval saddle,
Cross-garters on Charlie's legs, all 7 lost Faberge eggs,
A mask from Paititi, ancient graffiti,
A tin of canned ham, a scroll from Qumran,
Petroglyphs from Val Camonica, a sheng harmonica,
Two savory cream puffs, an Elizabethan ruff,
A cartouche, a tiny barouche,
A katana, a cutlass, a broadsword and then,
At last, the caliph of Maghreb’s magical pen.
Dinners for all three of us and my ability to chronicle our progress secured, I lighted the herbs. After scribbling in the diary, I tootled on the weird mouthharp along with Shenandoah from the folk music option while Charlie coughing from the incense came to, pushing at then stroking Devil.
“Eerie banshee shrieked so I left dress rehearsal still in costume and used the GPS. Some thanks I get.” Charlie rubbed the back of his head and tossed his shattered cellphone into an open iron maiden. Triggered, it clamped shut. "You took my ruff. And my garters."
“The skeleton in the cell next door has trousers.” Learning to encourage his self-reliance took me years. “If all you can find are cloth and scissors, you can make the pants yourself. I am not doing it. Not with a machine. Not with needle and thread. The same goes for changing tires and fixing generators. Breakable Shelving oligarchs took your father.”
Charlie said, “He needs a new hobby.”
“We’ll work on that later. Also, no fuzzy generic gas stations. The questions are why they took Harold and what do they want.”
While Charlie changed clothes, I read a few notes stuck to idols missing eyes, found almost half of them, discovered all the portals had different versions of Harold’s extra-deluxe devious exit puzzles needing items I did not have, then initiated examination of the command post for hidden rune infestations by poking it with a sword cane. Ever at my side, Devil growled softly. We share strong feelings about inexplicable rune blooms.
In the same doublet and puffy sleeved shirt, Charlie reappeared tucking frayed pants into swashbuckler boots, ready to switch from a role in “Twelfth Night” to “Pirates of Penzance.” He said, “I think I know. This all has to do with Esmerelda.”
“I warned you about her.”
Last edited by 8dognight; 08/13/18 07:37 AM.