The Theft

(part 2)

[Elanor and Lily]
Further down the street, two hobbits and a giant rabbit made their way through the bustling crowds, dressed in the light blue livery of the Bards Hall of Montfort. Released from duty for a few precious hours, Lily Gammidge had taken the opportunity to spend time with her daughter, who at this moment was skipping along merrily before her, one hand firmly grasping the leash attached to her pet rabbit's harness. The large lapine was at least three feet long (nearly as big as Elanor's tutor Sir Connery the Hamster), and not easily controlled, especially when near fresh vegetables. Already they had been forced to pay a considerable sum to an irate carrot vendor.
"Don't get too far, Elanor." Lily cautioned, although she knew full well her daughter was far more capable of handling herself than most children her age.
"Oh, mommy, there's the Book Lady!" Elanor cried. The little waif had spotted the stall of Melyda the Bookseller. Taking her mother's hand she began dragging both her and the rabbit towards the stall.
Melyda was finishing up a sale of three mathematics textbooks to an accountant and financier when she spotted two familiar faces in the crowd. She handed the books over and then waved at the approaching figures.
"Elanor! Mrs. Gammidge! It's good to see you again." She smiled at them as they finally managed to get through the crowd to her stall. "I sent Sammel off with a note for you, Elanor, but I see I needn't have bothered." She reached behind her and, with a florish, showed "There and Back Again" to Elanor and her mother.
Elanor looked up at the book and cheered. "Yay!!! I've been looking for that book for just ever!"
Lily smiled at the bookseller. "How much do I owe you?" she asked.
Melyda looked at the book, then smiled at Elanor and Lily. "It's yours, Elanor. And I'll not take a penny from you. Take it as my thanks for the kindness I've had from you and your mother." She held up her hand to forstall any arguments from them. "Besides, an earlier customer of mine was...unexpectedly generous. I really ought to pass that generosity along, and who better to benefit from it than you?"
She thought, for a moment, about telling Lily about that customer and the strange magical book, but she decided against it. Sammel was already helping her to find a mage, and why burden anyone else with the tale? She whispered under her breath as she stared at the book a moment, then handed it to Elanor.
Toby scratched one side of his nose, and turned as Watcher nudged one hand to direct his attention elsewhere. A book stall? And there was Elanor! The boy stopped for a moment, looking more closely just to make sure -- yep, Sir Connery *wasn't* there. All the more reason to go over to say hello, without worrying about being scolded. "Hey, Private Hawkins, have ya met Elanor and ..." He stopped before saying `Lily.' She might be a halfing, and shorter than Toby himself, but she was still an adult and definitely a lady deserving of more respect. "-- Mrs. Gammidge?" he finished. Without waiting for an answer, he looked up at Elenia. "Maybe the bookseller has something I could get for Allenel?"
The little hobbit took the book from the bookseller's hands and hugged it close. "Oh thank you very very much!" she said, her face beaming. Opening the book, she showed the title page to Lewis, and said, "See Lewis? This is the book I was telling you about."
"You are most kind." Lily said, "Thank you. I've found that a great deal of generous spirit seems to reside here in Montfort. Quite a surprise, actually, in light of the history of this place. How are you finding it so far?"
The dark-cloaked man edged closer to the book stall while the seller's attention was occupied by the halfing and her brat. He waited patiently for the right moment.....
"Oh, I'm enjoying myself immensely, Mrs. Gammidge." Melyda smiled at Elanor's obvious delight in her gift of the book. "Everyone at the Bards' Hall has been so supportive, and I've already done some very good business here. I really think I can make a book store prosper here. In fact, I'll likely have to work quite a bit to get my stock back up after the end of the Festival..."
[The Wine Seller]
"You! You swindler! You thief! You fiend! What are these bottles doing here! You stole them from me yesterday!"
[The Carpet Seller}
"I did nothing of the sort! These bottles were given me in trade for a thrassian throw rug! Be off!"
The two men were arguing over the wine seller's stall, which had been set up not far from Melyda's. The wine seller grabbed one of the bottles on the carpet seller's wagon and poured it on one of the carpets. That was enough for the carpet seller. He pounced on his opponent, and the two men rolled on the ground in the dirt, while a crowd gathered to watch the fisticuffs.
"Oh, dear." Melyda rolled her eyes and smiled ruefully at Mrs. Gammidge and Elanor. She grabbed her staff from its place in the corner and eased out of the stall, trying to peer over the heads of the crowd to see if she should intervene. Khale stretched, then leaped off her perch in the stall and eeled her way through the crowd to the carpet seller's wagon, attracted by the commotion and the smell of the spilled wine.
The dark-robed man slipped into the wagon and, seeing the book, snatched it up. He dashed out into the street, saw his assistant driving the wagon up as planned, and hopped aboard.
While the crowd's attention was focused on the fight, Elanor turned, and it was she who saw the dark-robed man make off with the book.
"Mother! Book-lady! That man is stealing a book!"
As the man hopped up onto the passing wagon, Elanor took her trusty sling-shot from her pocket, snatched up a stone, and, winding up with surprising speed, unleashed the missile towards the cart. The stone struck the driver of the wagon behind the head, and he fell to the ground with a thump. But the dark-robed man grabbed the reins and, not bothering to stop for his injured companion, lashed the horses to a gallop and drove off towards the south gate.
Melyda whirled from the fight at Elanor's yell and saw a man climbing into a wagon. "Stop! Thief!" she yelled. But before she could even take a step in persuit, she witnessed Elanor's exhibition in marksmanship, and the thief's abandonment of his partner. She also saw a large, reddish-brown streak dart out from behind the bookstall, quickly followed by a smaller streak from behind her; they started in on the chase of the speeding wagon.
"Ari! Khale! Stop!" Melyda yelled, suddenly very reluctant to let her two beloved pets chase after this particular thief. The dog and cat stopped by the prone figure of the other thief, looking back at her in evident puzzlement. She called them back to her, then knelt and petted them as she watched another crowd gather around the downed thief. She sent Ari back around to her wagon behind the stall, picked up Khale, and finally stepped back into her stall.
Her eyes went unerringly to the stack of magical books, and her fears were confirmed. _The Philosophy of Change_ was gone.
Melyda cursed herself for not putting the book in a safer place after she'd shown it to Sammel. 'Next time I'll listen more closely to my instincts,' she thought. She turned back to Elanor as some Guards arrived to take charge of the situation.
"Thank you for your help, Elanor. Hopefully that man will tell the guards who the thief was...once he wakes up." She smiled wryly.
The earlier altercation between the two merchants had been enough to drive Carr to try and hide himself in Elenia's skirts, and she had simply picked up the frightened child and held him close.
The confusion of the robbery had set Marla into motion. She had taken Skete firmly by the hand and hurried him out of the way - with Elenia not far behind. Though they all knew that this was a free Montfort the sight of uniformed men - any uniformed men - hurrying through the crowd was enough to call up visions of the Limpia. Old instincts - particularly for Marla and Skete - had taken hold, and they were quickly seeking someplace where they could become inconspicious.
But despite her old panic Elenia did not forget her other two charges - Gwion and Toby, and she wasn't about to lose track of them in the madness. Particularly not with Gwion's perchant for walking into trouble. "Hurry," she told them - trying to herd them away from the crowd.
"Or maybe we could come back later," Toby finally said, having watched the entire episode with his chin against his chest. Watcher, also, had simply stood, as if bemused at the other dog, and the cat, who had dashed off after the robber. The ten-year-old looked up at Carr, then back at the curious on-lookers milling around the bookstall. "We'll get the whole story later," he reassured the other children. "From Elanor." With one hand, he took Marla's. With the other, he took Skete's. "Geezo freesia," he said conversationally, "didja ever learn how to use a slingshot like that? I had one once, but I seemt've lost it."
With a glance towards Elenia, just to make sure Carr was doing okay, he started leading the others after Watcher -- who had taken a definite turn *away* from the commotion. "Maybe Elanor could give us some pointers or somethin'..." And he kept up that chatter for quite some time, until they had found a turn into one of the smaller parks, and a circle of benches in an open field of grass, where they could share a lunch. Meat-pies and cider, and one curious dog nosing at everyone's laps.
(part 3)
Sammel whistled cheerfully as he maneuvored his way through the crowded lanes of the Festival grounds. So far, this trip had produced wonderful results for him. He and Melyda were true friends again; he finally knew where his heart truly was. The morning's marketing also boded well for the future--he'd already saved enough through bargaining to make the trip worthwhile financially, and there was plenty of time to find other bargains.
Sammel kept a hand on his belt pouch, knowing that even in such a cheery Festival as this, there were plenty of thieves around. In a particularly crowded intersection, he squeezed the pouch. Hearing the crinkle of the notes within, he sobered a bit. Melyda's peculiar customer worried him more than he'd let on. As he broke out of the Festival grounds and soon approached the gates to the Bard Hall, he hoped he'd be able to find a competant mage willing to come back with him.
[Karyn Silversheen/Elwynn Evindem]
"Elwynn! ELWYNN!!!!"
Karyn Silversheen was shouting over the din from the stage at Elwynn Evindem. The elf-maid was standing near the front of the stage, listening to the music and obviously enjoying herself immensely.
The outdoor concert was the main event for the opening day of the Festival, and the feature act was a group from some planet or other that Elwynn had hired and transported to Ifrean. The group was at this moment putting on a sound and light display the likes of which had not been seen in Montfort since the Cleansing.
The problem with the music (if it could be called that) was that it was excessively loud and very... well...violent, something which Karyn had not at all expected. It was not the sort of thing that she had hoped for, and certainly many of the guests seemed to agree. Some of the Elves had simply got up and left, moving on to other parts of the Festival. Queen Sindella and her entourage had remained, the Queen actually standing in her special box and singing along with the band, something Karyn thought undignified for someone of her lofty position.
"Elwynn," Karyn cried, "you have to do something about the dragons!!!!"
"What's that? You have an empty flagon?"
"Dragons!!! DRA-GONS!!!" Karyn cried again, and pointed.
Nearby, four young dragons were blowing huge plumes of fire into the air in time to the music. Their plumes were starting to rain ash down on the crowd and threatened to set the nearby trees afire.
"Oh, the dragons!" Elwynn cried. "I see...Okay, I'll handle it, Karyn!"
"You'll what?"
"I'll take care of it!!" The elf-maid cried.
"You'll grow hair on it?"
"Never mind!"
The elf-maid picked up her magic mirror and turned it on. Speaking into the mirror she said, "Ixlym! Four Dragons in section BB! Illegal pyrotechnics! Deal with it!"
[The Lead Singer]
Onstage, the Lead Singer was introducing another song.
"This is the song Charlie Manson stole from the Beatles." he said. "We're stealing it back!"
Sammel heard the noise of music and voices nearby. At least, he *thought* it was music--it was rather difficult to detect a melody through the pounding of drums and other buzzing instruments. Still, where there was music, there would be bards. Sammel climbed up a low rise toward the cacophony.
He stopped on the edge, momentarily stunned. He'd never seen such an exhibition before, and he wasn't sure he liked it. After scanning the crowd, though, he spotted Elwyn Evindem and Karyn Silversheen. He pulled Melyda's note out of his belt pouch and scanned the contents. 'Good,' he thought. 'This should be explanatory enough to convince one of them to come out of this noise for a moment or two.'
Sammel took a deep breath, then waded into the sea of bodies and noise. Inch by inch, he worked his way through the crowd and finally reached Elwynn and Karyn.
"Ms. Evindem! Ms. Silversheen! Good to see you again!" he yelled, hoping he'd be comprehensible over the music. "I've a note for you from Melyda Carrisford, Ms. Silversheen!" He shoved the note into her hand.
[Karyn, Elwynn]
Karyn opened the note and ran over it as fast as she could. Tapping Elwynn on the shoulder, she handed it to her. Elwynn perused the letter and shrugged. Walking over to Sammel, she shouted over the din, "Take me to her!"
Sammel slowly led Elwynn out of the concert area, and eventually it was quiet enough for them to speak without yelling. He elaborated on the note's contents as they headed toward the marketplace, telling Elwynn more about Melyda's mysterious customer.
"We both decided that the best thing to do was to discover the nature of this book as soon as possible," he concluded. "Only then can we truly judge this man's motivations."
As they made their way toward the area where Melyda's stall was set up, however, they saw increasing signs of a recent disturbance--trash and wreckage on either side of the lane, people gathered in murmuring knots and looking toward the south gate. "I wonder what's happened," he said as he increased his pace as well as he could in the crowded lanes. He had the definite feeling that Melyda was somehow involved.
[Takayoshi T.]
The morning went very unsuccessful for the foreigner. Nobody has ever heard of or know who that man was. Yet he kept investigating, until he heard some noises down the street....
The foreigner turned around and saw the speeding wagon and its occupant coming toward him. The occupant appeared to be the man in dark robes. However, the wagon got closer and closer, then...
...The oriental man jumped out of the way of the Speeding wagon as it almost narrowingly hit him.
The slightly enraged and startled oriental man looked up and thought to himself, "That's him alright, but why was he here?...Now it is time for answers!!"
As he got up, he heard a commotion in the direction of where the wagon came from. As he went there, he saw a crowd of people and Guards gathered around a man lying on the ground.
"Could he have been part of the mysterious man's plot?!" Takayoshi thought.
He looked around to see if he could spot any suspicious people who might have been part of this plot, yet to no avail. However he did see Melyda, as he walked through the crowd, standing behind a book stand (which was right in front of the crowd).
"Looks as though I might get those answers!", he thought to himself, as he broke throught the crowd and approached Melyda, who seemed to be quite nervous and agitated. However, he was a littled concerned. Takayoshi wanted to bombard her with many questions, however it would be best to calm her down, he thought.
"Hey, Melyda, It's me Takayoshi. What happened and what's wrong with you? You seem very upset at something? What is it?"
"Oh! Hello, Takayoshi." Melyda nodded a greeting to the Security guard she had met at the Bard's gathering last night. "Those...those *frappin'* thieves stole one of my books! I *knew* I should have put it in a safer place!" She was as furious at herself as she was with the thieves. She took a few deep breaths to calm herself a bit, and explained the situation to Takayoshi and a Tower guard who had appeared on the scene.
"Scuse me, pardon me....scuse me...uh....MAKE WAY FOR THE PRINCESS!!!"
The crowd finally parted for Elwynn and her companion, and they were able to make their way to the stall. Melyda was there, as were Dallan, Lily Gammidge, and her daughter Elanor. The halfling girl was drawing furiously on a piece of paper, while the adults spoke in concerned tones.
"What's going on here, Dallan?" Elwynn asked, nodding at Takayoshi as she saw him. She noticed a few members of the Tower Guard and the Security Force milling about the scene.
"I'm afraid there's been a robbery, Elwynn." Dallan said. He explained the situation as briefly as he could.
The halfling girl finished scribbling on the pad and handed it to the Ranger.
"This is the man that took the book." She said. There on the pad was a very accurate portrait of the man who had stolen the book.
[Takayoshi T.]
Takayoshi saw a glimpse of the potrait of the man on the notepad.
"That's him alright!", he though to himself, "But why take the book?" As much as he didn't want to think about, he had a terrible feeling of the consequences yet to come!!
Melyda looked up as the crowd parted to let two figures through. "Hello," she smiled at them ruefully, still feeling a little shaken. She listened as the Ranger explained to Elwynn what had happened, then glanced at Elanor's sketch of the thief. She turned a serious face to Elwynn.
"I'm sorry to have had you dragged all the way out here for nothing, Elwynn. But I didn't think he...or they, or whoever, would act so quickly--or so directly. Much good it'll do him, though." Her expression became ever so faintly malicious.
Suddenly she felt a surge of magical energy. It wasn't strong, but it was enough to let her know that her spell on the book had been triggered. She turned to the Ranger.
"Whoever has the book is now three kilometers from here. I don't know what direction he is, but hopefully this will give you some help in finding him."
"Hmm. I see our security force is right on the job."
Beside the captured thief stood Thaddeus Troll. The huge former bodyguard was towering over the fallen man, who sat on the ground rubbing the back of his head.
The elf-maid strode over to where the man was sitting. She crouched down beside him and smiled warmly.
"Hello there. Allow me to introduce myself. I am Elwynn Evindem; elf- maid, sorceress, and notary public. That large fellow above you is Thaddeus. He is a Troll of execptional character. Tell you what. You tell me what I want to know, and I'll take you to the Healer's after my friend here breaks both your legs."
The man cast his eyes downward but said nothing.
Elwynn looked up at the massive troll. "Thaddeus, would you be so kind?"
The troll picked the unfortunate man up and inverted him, holding him upside down by one ankle. Thaddeus grinned behind his ever-present sunglasses. "Speak," he said.
The thief looked up at the troll, who regarded him impassively. "Aww right, aww right, tis a fair cop. The man you want is called Kieraan. He's a sorcerer 'imself, or so he says. Paid me in gold to 'elp 'im nick that book off yonder, sorry, ma'am, twas only business... nothing personal....uh, could your fellow 'ere turn me righways up now?"
Elwynn hmm'ed thoughtfully. "Well, that's interesting. What sort of book was it, Melyda? What was the title?"
[Takayoshi T.]
With a big grin on his face, the foreigner now had a name for that Mysterious Man, it was Kieraan!! He stared with vengence at the upside- downed man that was held by the troll Thaddeus.
"If I was that Troll," he grinned again and thought to himself, "he would not have any bones left in his body to heal!"
His attention broke at the sound of Melyda's voice. He turned around and listened intently at what she had to say....
"It's something called 'The Philosophy of Change,'" Melyda replied. "All I know about it is that it contains magic--strong magic--of a type I've never encountered before.
She glanced down at the captured thief. "I'm afraid this escapade hasn't done you much good. And it won't profit your employer either." She smiled at Elwynn's questioning look and grabbed a book from her stall.
"I have an anti-theft spell on all my books. It's the only magic I *can* do, other than a little healing. If one of these books is taken a certain distance away from the spot or person they're keyed into--in this case, more than three kilometers from this stall--without having the spell removed...well, I'll show you."
Melyda stared at the book, whispering a few words. With a mental twist, she activated the spell. She opened the book and flipped through the pages, showing them to Elwynn. On each page, whatever text had been there was now covered by a repeating message: "This book has been stolen from Melyda Carrisford. Please return it to her or contact the proper authorities."
"The original text is still there," Melyda explained. "My spell is simply layered over the text. Since it doesn't interfere with the book itself, it's safe to use even on magical books. So, since this Kieraan got far enough away to trigger the spell a few minutes ago, he's negated whatever help he was hoping to get from that book."
[Takayoshi T.]
Takayohsi was slightly amased at the spell.
"Very interesting!", he thought.
"If you added some audio components to the spell," Takayoshi humored out loud, "to verbally repeat that same message over and over again. Then Kierran would go CRAZY, before he would figure out how to dispell it!"
The elf-maid produced a huge tome from her hat and began flipping through it. "You don't have a publisher's date on it do you? Hmm.... "The Philosopy of Change"....let's see....Oh! Here it is! "The Philosophy of Change." ISBN 0-89774-864-6....well this is disturbing."
She put the book back into her hat. "Dallan," she said, "you have to get that book back before this Kieraan fellow manages to crack it open. It's a very dangerous tome and in the wrong hands it can do some very nasty things. You weren't here when it started raining fishbowls and kitchen utensils, were you? Well, it wasn't pleasant, and I'd like to prevent another such incident if at all possible."
Sammel grinned at Elwynn's production of her catalog, but sobered at the seriousness of her report. "Tell you what," he said to Melyda and Elwynn. "I'll get my horse and join in the search. That way, you can pull one less person off of security here. I'll meet you at the Dragon Inn tonight, Melyda. Hopefully we'll have good news for you."
"All right, Sammel. I'll see you then." Melyda smiled at him, then waved over an enterprising man who was going around the stalls selling meatrolls and bottles of ale. She was suddenly quite ravenous, and the commotion had brought so many potential customers to her stall that she didn't dare leave even for a few minutes. She looked over to Elanor Gammidge.
"Would you like something to eat, Elanor? It's the least I can do to repay you for your help."
[Lily, Elanor]
The halfling girl looked up at her mother questioningly before replying. "Yes please." She said politely. "If my mother can come along."
"Well, I was thinking more of having lunch come to us," Melyda replied. She whispered in the ear of the meatroll-seller and handed him a few coins. He slipped into the crowd.
A few moments later, he returned with not only his original wares, but a basket of fruit, some stuffed pastries, and a few bottles of water and milk. Melyda, meanwhile, had dragged over some of her empty crates to make an impromptu table and chairs. "Go ahead and eat, even if I'm busy," she said to Elanor and Lily, as three people at once tried to get her attention. "I guess this is my silver lining for the day." She smiled wryly.
"Sammel and Takayoshi," the elf-maid said, "why don't you come with me to the Dragon's Inn? There are a lot of capable adventurers sitting there doing nothing. Maybe we can recruit a few of them to help."
[Takayoshi T.]
"Sure, why not," the 6 foot oriental replied, "Even though I AM supposed to be on vacation, but as my Master Ikashi always said, `There should be no rest for the Weak Minded!' Of course, I never really understood him, fully. However, no matter how crazy his advices sounded..." Takayoshi grinned and continued "...One thing is for sure He was ALWAYS right!"
The now-smiling oriental, looked up at the elf-maid, Elwynn, and followed her to the Dragon's Inn!!

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