Sunday, September 26, 2004


Day Four

This has been the...something-est day of my life so far, I'm just not sure what-est yet. I should be asleep now, I was asleep, but I'm writing this some time well after midnight, quietly, so as not to disturb my guest, the lantern carefully shaded. I need my sleep - but I need to set this down on paper, make some sense out of it all, while it is all still fresh in my mind. And if today has rearranged my life, I shudder to think what tomorrow will do...

Am I making sense? probably not, Ser Wizard Librarian - and now I'm talking to somebody I've made up as the custodian of this "magic" book I'm writing in. Oh, I look at her sleeping, so calm, peaceful - helpless...
Bah. The day began much as I'd planned. List, chamberlain, more cash, then an endless walk round and round town talking to people. Not a sign, not a word about poor Marius. The only direction to go was inside the castle - and while I could have probably got in by helping deliver food, or something like that, that would only have got me access to the kitchens, and I'd have had a friendly, hard-to-shake escort. So I invested some Restormel money in Torner, who was guarding one of those small side-exits that any good castle has - not to go in that way, just for an easy and quick exit afterwards.

I waited for dusk before throwing a borrowed grappling-hook up onto the castle wall, and quickly scrabbling up and over. Nobody saw me, though the guard that should have seen me will be nursing a lump on the back of his head for a while. In fact, the place was a lot quieter than I expected. It was strange, there were guards about, and a number of times I had to stay back in the shadows as servants moved along the corridors, I even caught a glimpse of the lord's second son hurrying to his room with a giggling servant-girl... but the place just didn't feel lived in, it was like walking in a castle that had been abandoned a century before, alone and unloved.

Lady Restormel had visited the castle, of course, as soon as her husband had disappeared - with all the servants and slaves and soldiers, there couldn't be any secrets in the more public areas, I'd decided, so after a general scout around I headed down for the dungeons. Empty cells, completely deserted except for the distant scuttlings of rats - and then I came to a locked cell door, with, on its little board, the word "Memree" written. Not a person's name, really, but an old term for a child's imaginary companion. The key was close by, and I used it, the door opened noiselessly, and there she was, lying helpless on the floor on some dry old straw. Metal ankle cuffs were joined by chain, and another chain led to a ring-bolt in the floor. I used the big old key to force one of the floor-chain's links open.

But the hobble-chain weren't the main thing, or the rope that tied her arms behind her back; the gag was the main thing, it was solid metal all around her head, with a flange going down under the chin to stop her mouth from opening at all. It was an intricate device, solid and well-made; I could see a small keyhole below one ear, but there was nowhere here that a suitably small key would be found, and the hole was too small for any lockpick I possessed. There was a hole at the front to allow easier breathing, or perhaps some water through a straw, which was lucky, as it was obvious that the gag wouldn't be going anywhere without the girl's head for a while yet.

I stood the girl up, and she trembled against me, naked except for her bonds. "Now, your choice, sera. I can cut the ropes and let you go your own way, or, if you desire it, I can put you under my protection, and take you with me." I idly stroked her blonde hair, and looked her firmly in the eye. She was a couple of inches shorter than me, maybe a couple of years younger, too. "You'll notice the second option doesn't include setting you free -- at least, not yet."

This will take all night if I go into too much detail, though it's strange how fast I'm writing it all down. Did she know anything about Lord Restormel? Maybe, maybe not, but she was the only physical evidence of something very strange in the castle, so I wasn't about to give her the chance to run off in a panic, once she'd indicated that she did want to come with me rather than take her own chances. In fact, I wonder why I did give her that option? If she'd chosen to go off alone, perhaps I'd have followed her, tried to discover some dark secret that way.

We were only just in time for Torner at his castle side exit, and he smiled appreciatively at my companion. "I like her fashion sense", he said, as he let us through. I winked at him, put my arm round the shoulders of my little "Memree", and steered her out into the street.

The first priority was to try to remove the gag, so that I could find out just who my new friend was, and how she'd got sent to the dungeons, which had otherwise not been used for years. So, as an expert on gags, locks, and restraints, Delinda's was an obvious first port of call. Nobody looked more than twice as I guided a rather grubby naked, bound slavegirl through the town, naked slaves are after all a fairly common sight. The metal gag was a bit unusual, if seen up close, but it took attention away from the actual lack of a legal slave-collar. And mid-evening, before the taverns start to empty, is a pretty quiet time anyway, with the last of the street market stalls closing down.

Delinda's shop was closed, but lit, and she soon appeared from the back room when I rapped on the glass, her face split in a huge smile when she saw us. "Charol, my friend, is this a present for me...?"

"I've a little problem, Del", I told her.

"When don't you have a problem, Charol? But she's absolutely gorgeous, my friend -- are you selling?"

"Only the clasp-gag, if you can get it off her."

She approached, and studied it carefully. "Picking the lock? Something of this quality, I must first test..." She took a dull glass rod from a box, and brought it towards the girl's face. "Such a devil in iron, it could be ensorcelled, and I don't want a magical bomb going off in here."

The rod began to glow red, then yellow, then almost white - it emitted sparks like a winter's day firework, which flared, then vanished when they hit the floor. It was most impressive, I closed my eyes but could still feel the light on my face. "Big spell, right?"

Delinda ran the rod down my captive's body - it faded a little, but continued to glow and pulse, and I made some weak joke about a "magic pussy".

"Not exactly," she said. "The main magic is in the gag, I'm sure, but I'm getting traces even down here." She crouched, and tapped a knee gently. "Your little friend has been very close to a major magic spell, at the very least." She paused. "You want that gag off, you need the key, wherever that is."

To prove her expertise, Del got the ankle-cuffs unlocked in seconds, and cut away the ropes from her arms too; the girl massaged her wrists, rolled her shoulders, and I'm sure that behind her gag she was smiling. "If we can't ditch the gag, this young 'Memree' had better have some other gear to go with it, if you've some suitable bits and pieces to lend us," I said, as running down the street after a spooked naked blonde would do my reputation no good at all. "She's under my protection, I don't want her running loose."

"In the old dialect, a 'memree' is a child's imaginary playmate - a make-believe companion. Ah, these should fit snugly..." Del commented, confirming what I'd thought, and held up a hinged metal collar. "Here, you'd better snap this on her - if it turns out that she's an unmarked slave, this should be locked in place by you if you're going to claim her."
"It was the name chalked on the dungeon door, and she's not objected to me using it." I watched as Del produced ankle-locking boots with a hobble-chain, and a belt with wrist-cuffs attached by short lengths of chain.

Once my prize was suitably secured, Del produced some milk and a straw, and, with a surprising amount of noise, the girl drank it swiftly, followed by a refill. Del demonstrated how the wrist-chains could be pulled in for "snugness" - we left them like that while we shared a little wine, and then the girl and I - Memree and I - headed back here.

But it will soon be dawn, so I'm about done with writing. After letting out those wrist-chains again I gave Memree a sponge-down bath, standing in a basin, and before too long we were both asleep, even though I was too awake to stay asleep for long. Damn! What kind of sense does that make? Enough, I'm going back to bed!

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