I am still loyal.
Kael sniffled. Joaon had been loyal to her for so long – and to learn how long he had been here, without her, and still loyal, still so desperately loyal — and here he was, in this world.
She put the potion to one side and sniffed a few of her ingredients. She had questions, and only a few of them she’d find standing in the middle of her potions-workshop, this fairly good imitation of her workshop.
She walked slowly down the back stairs, her fingers trailing along the block walls. How much work she’d put into this place. In her day, only someone like her — or like Carrenonna — could make a building like this.
She remembered this block, how she had poured the potion for it while splashing something at an attacker, something they thought was acid. It had blinded them, yes, but only for an hour, while it showed them visions of another world, a world in which they had not made the choices they had.
She’d managed to keep that one from falling off the edge of the tower, and Joaon had walked them, unresisting, down to the dungeon.
The dungeon was easy enough to escape from, built that way. Kael wondered what it looked like now.
Well, that, at least, she could find out. She paused where there had been a trap and saw the letters written in — what was that, some sort of ink visible only to her eyes? It seemed to glow, and yet if she looked at it from her peripheral vision, it was gone. An interesting potion!
This place is only some of what it once was. Be careful, be mindful. I hope it can be restored.
“Interesting.” The handwriting was, once again, Joaon’s. She wondered if he had left messages all over this building and, if so, if anyone else had intercepted them.
She knelt down and ran her fingers over the location of the trap. It had been disarmed, but not removed, and it had been done so awkwardly, not by a skilled trap-finder but possibly by someone panicked after having fallen into it. Not Joaon, then. He had found too many of her traps the hard way, back when her sense of humor was more quirky than kind.
She could activate it, but it would take several potions and a few days of work. There were other things she could be doing in the meantime.
She kept going down the stairs, getting a feel for what her home had become.
“Where is that girl…” She could hear him through the wall. Oh, the reception room. She opened the hidden doorway, wondering if – yes, bless Joaon, he had kept the curtains, the way the door looked like one more window, making the passage truly secret.
“I swear,” Mr. Vibius was muttering, “something about the look, or the girl, or something. Every time we get a new one of those, they just hare off in twenty minutes. And then I have to find another one who has the look, and who can make it look believable when they-”
Kale stepped out around the curtains. “You called for me?”
She didn’t bother with what he called her Begone you Pesky Mortals look, because he had no reason to fear her – yet. Instead, she tried something she had not tried in a very long time, even before she fell into a millenium-long sleep. She tried a coy look.
He looked nervous. She probably needed to work on that look a little bit. “Where did you come from? You can’t just pop up on people like that!”
“Oh, it’s this curtain.” She smiled broadly at him. “This is a lovely room here,” she looked around. Her Reception Room looked much the same as it had when she last left it. The long, thick curtains covered everything except two windows, giving the impression that all the curtains covered the same sort of view out onto – well, onto a city, now. “I was exploring the building, as I had no tourists at the moment. There’s a lovely back staircase, if we wanted to sneak up on someone at some time, or if someone needed to get to the potions room in a hurry.”
“Well, don’t sneak up on me. You’ll give me a heart attack that way!”
As if she was reading it, she heard under his words:
I swear, all the Kaels are creepy, but this one is something else again.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Vibius.” She really didn’t do well with apologetic expressions. She was going to have to work on that. “You were looking for me?”
“Oh, well, I didn’t know what you were doing, and it looks like we have another group coming in. How did the first one go?”
“I don’t really know how to judge that,” she demurred.
“Well, if they want to stop in the gift shop, they’ve done well. If they want to come back, they’ve done well. This place doesn’t run on smiles and good feelings and your potion fumes, you know.”
Well, technically, it runs on a behest, but I don’t run on smiles.
“Of course. Tell me, when would be a good time for me to go off downtown? I have a couple errands I didn’t get to run this morning…?”
“What? Your lunch break, of course. Which isn’t for two more hours. Now get back upstairs and look creepy, and make sure to suggest that they go to the gift shop. That’s on the fourth floor,” he offered helpfully. “We wanted to put it down here, but the behest said there was only so much we could do, and the fourth floor was empty, so.”
“Fourth floor.” She nodded. She could look at that on her way back up to her potions lab. She had never seen a gift shop before.