“Take me with you,” Beatrice had said. The mole spoke in my mind. Apparently she could only be heard when Johann was sleeping. The power of her brain overwhelmed Beatrice in the state she was currently in. And yes, Beatrice had once been a full sized adult. She was indeed cursed by an ancient artifact and attached to Johann just to survive. I threw up a little in my mouth when I figured out that she was not only aware of everything Johann did and said, but could read simple thoughts of those around her. She had been the one to convince Johann to come here, as Rufus had promised to help break the curse. Beatrice assured me she was a young woman only hours older than Johann with a shock of red hair and legs that went all the way to her neck. An image flashed in my mind briefly which was too absurd to be viable, then a second image appeared, one projected by Beatrice and her legs were not her best asset, though they were pretty amazing. She was the whole package, Father. She and I shared a conversation in the amount of time it took me to breathe in a few times. This psychic link we now shared, due to the worship I’d done with Johann, was not only disconcerting, but made me think of the Psiflayer who was still out there, somewhere, biding his time until his next move.
I was dubious but cast a protection from evil on myself just to be sure, as that had protected me from the brain beast. Beatrice was in no way affected. She did ask that I be a little less judgmental of Johann and not abandon her. I was not happy she had gleaned that from my thoughts, but I wouldn’t lie to her. We chatted about the situation and I agreed, in light of charity and frankly needing a guide, that I would travel with her at least until we freed Bob, cured Alfred, got what we needed from Rufus the weasel gnome, and negotiated with Cassandra on the state of debt with the brigands. That was a tall order, but she assured me it was a viable solution.
She also told me that Rufus was actually a nice guy when he wasn’t feeling horribly overwhelmed. He and Beatrice still carried on regular conversations unbeknownst to Johann. With the battle going on between the orcs and the giants, and the way Cassandra had been so sorely wounded, things around the ruins have been rather in an uproar. Cassandra was hiding and grouchy therefore Rufus was on edge. She promised to vouch for me with the old weasel gnome and that he’d even return Alfred to his normal state as long as we could prove useful to him.
Not sure what that meant, but when dealing with wizards, never let your guard down, and protect your money pouch. For that matter, keep them away from your friends and family if you can. They have a tendency to make a mess of things.
Beatrice said I had a rather naïve vision of wizards, but that all the advice was sound. She said he was learning from Rufus and that when her curse was lifted he promised to show her how to cast the spells she had been learning since she met him. She also said she was enamored of the scruffy wizard. I had to double check we were talking about the same guy, and she assured me she was. There had been a passionate fling when he studied briefly at her university (which is like a temple, only for worship of book learning, similar to the monastery teaching, but with less knuckle wacking).
She also told me that the only reason Rufus was allied with Cassandra was because she kept the riff-raff out of the valley. Now, with both orcs and giants stomping around, he had just about decided that she was proving more of a liability than an asset. I asked Beatrice what she thought of Cassandra and she laughed. Basically no one liked the dragon, and I can’t say as I blame them. Scary, horrible, acid breathing, surly, churlish, wounded and petty. And those are her good points.
Beatrice offered that maybe, if I was up for the task, that I could team up with Rufus to slay dear Cassandra. That way, they could have the full run of the ruins and that her power over the lands would begin to fade, reducing the overall acidic taint and eventually returning things to the way they had once been, at least before she had arrived here several centuries ago.
I asked Beatrice if she believed the way Johann did, that the ancient kingdom and the Nine and Sixty were myth. She said she and Johann were of one mind, after all, but no, she no longer believed they were myth. She had seen proof in these ruins, and seen the thoughts that had bubbled to the surface of my mind when arguing with Johann. She was troubled, but wanted more time to consider. She also wanted to speak more with Rufus to get his take. Corroboration seemed a reasonable next step.
Again, this entire conversation was over in the time it took me to write the first word, but I said I would calm down about Johann and she thanked me. Then she said she’d keep watch and that I should get some sleep. It seemed like a reasonable idea, so I found a corner I could curl up in, tucked the mace against my chest and fell asleep. Beatrice sang to me in my mind as I drifted off. I don’t recall the words, but as she sang, a map of the ruins unfolded in my mind. Not the full extent, by any means, but enough for me to find my way to Bob, the dragon hall as well as three different secret rooms that the dragon knew nothing about.
I was feeling more assured and safe than I had in a long time.
That’s what I get for trusting another wizard.