Once we were away from the city gates, no one paid us any attention. We found our friends happily eating and drinking at the Coy Nixie.
“Well,” said Acgar as we sat down, “Various is in the stew. Of course they noticed her smoking eye and they tried to arrest her.”
Cinder put her hand to her head with an audible smack. “OK. Great. Where are they holding her?”
“No, they tried to arrest her. She got away. Sort of.”
I nodded. “Last we saw of her, she was floating in a cloud of mist headed toward The Brass Band.”
Acgar corrected me: “The Brass Trumpet.”
Sadi pulled out her battered map of Cauldron. “That’s down by the lake. Rough neighborhood.” She seemed a little gleeful.
Myntilly explained Cauldron neighborhoods to Ian and Zallie as we made our plans.
She interrupted herself to say, “If they are calling Quinlan Ghelve to the scene, we’re fine. We’ll just go explain things to him.”
And of course she was right. It took a bit of persuasion but we got him inside the inn. And couldn’t find Various. She was not there!
“There are a dozen nervous half-orcs outside. No way she left the building. She’s here.” Acgar and Sadi both began to touch the seats in the common room.
“She’s probably invisible.” Acgar called over her shoulder.
Quinlan stood there for a second, arms akimbo. He smiled and walked up to the bartender. “Seen an elf woman? She would have gotten a room. Maybe you would have noticed her eye was smoking…..”
The bartender shook his head. “Her eye wasn’t smoking.”
When we entered Various’ room, we saw a cup of tea floating above the bed. Myntilly patted the bed to the left of the cup and sat down. “Various, dear. This man has some questions. Will you show yourself?”
Quinlan threw his hands up in the air. “Is this a joke? Did Gurnezarn put you up to this?” He turned to leave.
I grabbed his arm. “No, please! She’s real!”
I wanted to scream so badly. Through gritted teeth I said, “Various. This nice man has some questions. Please show yourself to him.”
“Cauldron’s mean.” Various sounded hurt and put out. “I don’t like it here.”
“They just don’t understand. You can help them understand….. Please.”
And suddenly she was visible. I do not take credit for that. I swear she’s as bad as a cat — you cannot make Various do anything she doesn’t want to do.
It wasn’t until Quinlan leaned over and blew out the tiny flame in her eye that he believed Various’ story. He sat back, speechless, as the flame reignited.
“Well,” he said. “This changes everything.”
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