Ladies in Hades and the Dyval Wears Prada
Story - Trent - The Price of Freedom
The Price of Freedom
Trent silently smiled to himself when Jescha activated the talisman he gave her. That she could do that meant the basic idea behind their whole story must be true (although, Trent had to admit to himself, it was only a hunch that the test he devised would work at all). As incredible as it sounded, at least now he could believe it and consider all the possibilities that entailed.
“Jescha… I won’t ask you to do something you’re not comfortable with. If you don’t actually want to be with me, I won’t force you. But if you do, well… I’m going to keep us pretty busy for the next several weeks.”
Jescha looked at him and says, “It isn’t even something I had to think twice about. I’ll stay with you for as long as you’ll let me. Trent, I-“
Trent cut her off. “That’s all I need to hear right now. I want to talk more with you, get to hear about what’s going on from you directly and just catch up in general. But not here. Somewhere very private. I’ll take us there, but first I need to pick up some supplies.”
Jescha just nodded and silently walked with Trent out of the brothel and through the streets of New Calgary. It didn’t take Trent and Jescha long to find a shop selling the sort of basic supplies Trent was looking for – scrolls, books, jewelry and other assorted trinkets – things which he could use his magic to enchant, in preparation for what lay ahead. He cast a couple of preparatory spells and bade Jescha to wait outside and have his back while he went in to get what he needed.
The inside of the shop looked as expected for a store of this nature, and definitely cleaner and more organized than expected of a place in New Calgary. As Trent walked around picking out the items he needed, he noticed what appeared to be a blood golem standing in the back, with a familiar looking basket in its hands. He also noticed the proprietor of this store looked similar to Yenta, the woman that he met in Freehold, for the mage’s guild he joined there.
This woman was paying him no mind, and quietly grumbling to herself. Trent caught a few snippets that grabbed his attention while he was picking up his supplies.
“…time stop scrolls…”
“…well my sister warned me about that one!"
Trent stood in front of her with his items as she finished her ramblings, and she turned to him as if noticing him for the first time. “This isn’t the first time I’ve ignored my sister’s advice,” she said to Trent. “Good girl, but she’s such a stick in the mud. Ahem.” She quickly eyballs the things Trent brought up to the counter. “It’ll be one-hundred thousand for all that.”
Trent began to count out the full amount in blood marble and while doing that, asked her, “What did you mean just a moment ago, when you said ‘strange looking aliens’? When were they here? And ‘time stop scrolls’? Such things exist?”
“Yes, such things exist sonny boy. And, well, you have the look of a traveler who knows as much. As for strange-looking aliens… that’s commonplace here in New Calgary. The Devil’s City they call it. It’s a wonder they ever even allowed us to host a branch of the Magic Guild here in this wretched hellhole.” The older Jewish gnome sighs audibly and looks at Trent with knowing eyes. “That hundred thousand, that’s the street price for those things. You’ll pay only a fraction of that if you show me that hickey my sister gave you for your Membership!” She cackled gleefully, and then continued.
“Take seventy-five percent off the listed price. I hope you understand it’s better for our business if we actually SHOW you how much money you’re saving instead of merely charging you less. Call it a change in philosophy. High-time for that, I reckon. Don’t you fret yourself none over some hocus-pocus alien. Three-Galaxies travelers be passin’ this way for as long as the Rifts been ‘runnin’! Jes awful strange people stoppin’ by my shop lately… a Sowki earlier looking for some of the same things! Didn’t give him none o’ mah Guild membership discounts! No sir! He was lookin’ at me funny with his beady little eyes – all three of ‘em! I reckon he about had a tentacle up my skirt afore I knew somethin’ amiss! Keeps strange company that one… very strange… beasts with tentacles all wiggling and jiggly-like…afearsome!”
Trent laughs and gives her 30,000 in blood marble for lifting his spirits with her comments. Although hearing that a Sowki was here, looking for time magic… did he already get what he said he was going to spend the next day getting, Trent wondered? What did he need that 24 hours for then? He said back to the shopkeeper, “Well still, if you can remember about how long ago those aliens were here it would mean a lot to me.” He dropped another 5,000 in blood marble on the table. “Do you mind if I use some magic? It’s nothing to cause you any problems; you have my word as a guild member.”
The woman made the money disappear and then looked thoughtful. “Hmm… the alien was only a few days ago – three maybe? And that Sowki was here just a few hours ago. Can’t forget a face like that,” she leaned in towards Trent. “Only a mother could love that!” She cackled then. “You’d think he’d have learned how to change his appearance by now; trivial in matters-arcane.”
“Anyhow,” she continued, “be about your business and thanks for the… tip. I’ll ensure that Valve doesn’t activate,” she said with an offhanded wave toward the giant blood golem. “Do stop by again from time to time – I get so lonely! My sister gets all the fancy foot-traffic!”
Trent told her, “I’m not sure how long I’ll be sticking around for, but if I’m here for some time then I’ll definitely be back. Thank you.” Then he started working his spell while thinking over what she told him. She was right, a Three-Galaxies alien didn’t necessarily mean anything, but there was one in particular he knew and didn’t want to encounter just now. Still, there was little he could do about it. His spell to view the past couldn’t reach that far back, but it could reach back far enough to see if the Sowki this woman mentioned was his ‘friend’ Pall Mall.
He watched through the spell as the Sowki, who was definitely Pall Mall, picked up most of the things he told the group he would try to get over the next 24 hours. At this point Trent didn’t really expect much less. Satisfied, he turned back to the shopkeeper. “Oh, there’s one other thing ma’am… Recently I witnessed an Elf who might be in some trouble. He looked like this…”
Using magic Trent conjured up a small but detailed illusionary “wall,” about the size of a piece of paper, with the image of the Elf slave he very briefly encountered and inadvertently helped free only a couple hours earlier displayed on it. Trent continued. “He disappeared before I could offer to help him. I fear he may be in over his head in this place, and looking for a way out. If you encounter him, could you be so kind as to let him know that I’m willing to help him? No strings attached – I know what it feels like to be in over your head here."
The woman starts chatting away to Trent. "He’s a member of the Guild – or was. Hasn’t paid his dues since his enslaving. I couldn’t turn him away and put him on the street but I fear he’ll be there before the week is through. He doesn’t have the money to pay for a portal home and can’t work with the brand on his skin. I can’t risk openly harboring a ‘former’ slave – not with that mark tattooed on his neck – not for very long at least. From what little he told me there was some disturbance at the forge… Dinosaur Alien Emancipation Proclamation – his words, not mine. His brain’s certainly addled from the traumatic experience. I mean – really! Dinosaur? Here in New Calgary?!?!”
She almost laughed but instead kept talking uninterrupted. “Demonic probably. Never you mind that. I’m surprised you haven’t heard of the break-in. Word has traveled pretty quickly – especially among the slaves. They’re claiming rumors abound that one of their former rank – a slave himself – dredged up the nerve to free those Forge slaves. From a Brek Shall Duke no less! They say he was so embarrassed he up and abandoned his Modeus-given Forge! This is the gossip of slave glory… Probably unfit for civilized folks. And lookit me now – spreading it like honey for the bees. Pshaw. For shame! I’d put it out of your mind sonny boy. It won’t take too long for that rumor to reach important ears and the loose-laid laws of New Calgary will feel the fist of Demonic fury. They let this city run wild – like a paradise or some kind of demonic vacation from Hades! I’m not in a position to risk the amnesty and neutrality the Guild has carefully sued for itself."
She finally paused for a minute then looked down at her lap, abashed.
“Lookit me over here jibber-jabberin’ your ear off! Olga you bes be ashamed o’ yourself and let the man be. He’s got places to go and people to see and they don’t involve you!”
Suddenly Trent felt a little wary, and put his hand subtly on his dragon’s eye gem, just to be certain she was what she seemed to be. He also tried to notice if she had any of those demonic “ownership” tattoos on her. Satisfied that she passed the test of his scrutiny, he looked around to see if anyone else may be nearby who can overhear, then leaned in close to her, talking in a more hushed voice.
“That Elf’s not as ‘brain-addled’ as you may think. I was there, on other business, when this Dinosaur-man just up and grabbed a giant hammer, and in one mighty blow ripped the slave’s main restraint clean out of the ground. When the enraged Duke charged after him, no doubt to painfully rend him some new bodily orifice, the Dinosaur-man reared back and with another mighty swing knocked the Duke clear across the room and into unconsciousness. The slaves finished freeing themselves faster than I could believe and ran out while my companion and I were still taking it all in! The Dinosaur-man took a suit of armor and left the smithy. My companion and I left shortly after, lest we be implicated in all this. I don’t know where this Dinosaur-man is now."
“Olga,” Trent said after pausing to take a breath. “I’d like to help the Elf. What does he owe in guild fees? What will it cost to get him out of here safely?”
As if she just recently had this conversation, probably with the Elf himself, Olga rattles the amount right off. “Currently he owes two-hundred and forty seven thousand, six-hundred and eight and point thirty-one credits in past due fees. But,” she continues, “only fifty-thousand of that needs to be paid up front. You see, the balance can be paid over the course of this next six months, providing that he offer himself to be in the teaching slash tutoring rotation. If he does that for a month he can use the remaining five months to get the rest of the money he owes. Otherwise, that fifty-thousand will be forfeit”
Trent thought on that for a few moments, then made his decision. "I’ll pay the fifty-thousand to help him out for now. He can thank me someday later when he’s safe – you can tell him it was Trent Logan who helped in this manner, if he asks. Will another fifty-thousand pay his way to a destination he would wish to go to?” Trent counts out one-hundred thousand in blood marble stones to pay Olga. “If that’ll work then please, ensure he gets this. And I’d like very much to meet with him eventually, when it isn’t as dangerous for him to be seen. "
Olga nods and takes Trent’s money. Trent grabs the items he purchased and turns to leave. “Please, bid him safe journey from this place and good luck in putting his life back together. I look forward to hopefully coming back here someday soon.”
With that, Trent left the store and met back with Jescha. “Sorry that took so long. Let’s get going. We’ve got a lot to do in the next few hours and only a few weeks in which to do it.”