Jump to content
The Pen is Mightier than the Sword
The Portrait of Zool

The Boaz Room

Recommended Posts

OzymandIas opened his mouth to make a comment along the lines of 'Not THAT kind of trouble', and was suddenly distracted by Zool speaking to something or someone under the table (or perhaps the table itself. He'd never even seen this room before, so he knew it was safest not to make presumptions.).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Cricket tugged at her kerchief, scruffed her hair, stalled. "You're... not going to toss me to the junker?" Another moment of silent contemplation went by. The noises weren't alarms, weren't the half-wired klaxons going off over some tripped trap. The feet weren't in boots that kick. The portrait was talking to her.

 

The risk-benefit analysis running through her head was quick, hastened by the rumbling of her stomach. When the portrait reiterated his invitation, she wobbled onto her knees. Her hands lifted the table cloth and she shuffled out from beneath. Her dirty, half-gloved hands gripped the table and she cautiously lifted herself to look at the portrait more closely, one hand passing at her nose with a sniff. "...Good spread," she said, shuffling.

Edited by Cricket

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

"The best," he assured her as he motioned to a ready waiter who brought a chair for the girl.

 

She watched every move closely, her bright eyes trying to take everything in at once. The chair was placed, the waiter retreating at another signal from Zool. Once satisfied the invite was genuine, she sat down.

 

"Water and juice," said Zool to the waiter, indicating the girl with a gesture. Within moments a tall glass of chilled water in a sparkling cut crystal glass and a porcelain cup decorated with fanciful dragons full of the most exotic and delicious juice the girl could ever have imagined were placed in front of her.

 

"You still haven't told me your name," said Zool gently.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

"I appreciate the shining, for sure," Rydia started to explain to the gnomish squad, "but you don't have to--"

 

Oh yes, they did. Even if it took the entire squad to carry her overhead like a crowd surfer. Her sparkling polished boots led the way between the tables, around Harmony's ("Ohmygod that was so clever! can you summon me a net. . ." she drifted off as they carried her out of conversational range). Once they reached Zool's table the gnomes inserted her into a reclining chair, cranked the chair back up to dining position, and scurried off to finish their duties.

 

She twiddled with one of her dangly earrings then while Zool pretended to discover the little one in the dining cart. Rydia had seen a wink pass from gnome to gnome. Creatures down at that height had a conspiracy, honestly! "Yes hon, have a seat!" she said, and pretended to whisk a speck of dust off of a nice high padded chair.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

"Now Rydia," chided Zool, "How can you not share our concern for this poor lost child? Can you not see she is lost and hungry? Where are your maternal instincts?"

Edited by The Portrait of Zool

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Rydia's ears pricked right up again. This time it wasn't so clear and you needed the facial expression as well to notice she was miffed. "It's a girl thing really. I just can't not say hiiiii also and someone has to fill the air while other people are trying to drink and that water glass is awfully sparkly. Have you seen Carp? I lost him somewhere in the potted plant. It's REALLY sparkly." Too late, she was transfixed by the cut glass.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Cricket sat down with a heavy plonk in the proffered chair, a nervous twist to her legs as they swung into place under the table. "'m Cricket," she introduced herself, adding, "I'm not a kid neither, I've got..." Her insistence was paused for a count. "I've got nine summers what I remember, an' one that I lost, and maybe more, at least that's what Sendra told me." Her age displayed proudly, like a badge won, she beamed at the people who gave her a seat and a cup filled with something that wasn't stale and murky.

 

And then the beam is dropped to her grimy hands. Her foot is rubbed against a pair of stained trousers, as if the act would eliminate the months of filth. Was she rude?

 

She looked up sidelong once more at Rydia and Zool, before reaching and taking her first sip from the glass.

 

Oh, that's nice. She almost choked on it, unprepared for the taste. The cup was carefully placed down again, and she looked at Rydia, with her earrings and her prettiness and she blurted out the first thing that came to mind.

 

"How do you lose a fish?"

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Rydia gossiped to the shiny. Fortunately it was more or less in a line with Cricket so it didn't look too rude. "Oh he's not confined to water like most fish. He is an air swimmer and this is an awfully big room isn't it? Plenty of things for him to hide in!" She pointed one long and flexible ear at the dining cart while saying the last part, while her hands stayed still . "Now how do you lose a summer, is what I want to know.

 

"Ohmygod you know who you need to meet? There are positively a swarm of girls your age camping in here! Would you mind if I invited one in? No? Wonderful!" She was a little too tipsy to wait more than two seconds for an answer. Rydia tried to stand up, wobbled while her ears tried to maintain equilibrium, sat back down, waved for a waiter, and whispered two requests in his ear. A few minutes later he reappeared with a basket half-full of paper twists and no news.

 

"Really? Not at all?" Rydia picked a twist out of the basket, unwrapped it, swallowed the powder inside with a mouthful of wine, and recited the spell written on the inside of the wrapper. The tipsiness could almost be seen vaporizing and floating away from her skin. It left her terribly pale. "They can't find Minta, but I'm sure she will come. She has to. You can meet her later."

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

"No Minta?" said Zool. "Perhaps she's out recruiting in the Pen graveyard, or organizing another candy store siege. She can't have gotten far - not at the Pen."

 

Before Rydia could answer the Swami spoke. "Speaking of the Pen graveyard..."

 

All eyes turned to where he motioned, the curtained entrance, through which had just walked in a tall distinguished gentleman. The top of his head was bald, but a thick curly gray hair fringed the rest. He had solid black arched eyebrows over fierce piercing eyes of the brightest cerulean Rydia had ever seen, a thick gray mustache, and was impeccably groomed. He wore a long black wizard's robe. In one motion he scanned the room and headed for our little group. He looked well past middle age, but walked with an ease and strength that belied his apparent age.

 

"Excuse me," he said with a confident gentleman's voice, "Is this seat taken?" he queried, indicating a chair next to Rydia.

 

"Always room for one more, Lord Dreadful," said the Swami in an even voice.

 

"Ah! My reputation has preceded me," said the man with a broad smile as he sat down.

 

"Yes - yes it does," said the Swami.

 

"Lord Dreadful?!" said Zool in surprise. "I seem to recall... Weren't you killed with everyone else in the cave of the Magic Breathing dragon, after abducting Princess Willamina?"

 

"There are a lot of misconceptions about that adventure, our deaths being one of them, but as you can see I am alive and well, and even us villains must eat, you know, so here I am, and overjoyed to be in the company of such lovely ladies..." he said, nodding to Rydia and Yasmina each in turn. After giving them each a friendly smile, he looked up as a waiter walked by. "Oh waiter," he said, tapping his wine glass, "A Cabernet for me, if you'd be so kind, and please refresh the ladies drinks - and keep them coming!"

Edited by The Portrait of Zool

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Cricket was spared a chance to blush in embarrassment. Embarrassment at being so dirty, at being caught and dirty, at talking and being offered friendship and people her own age. A million responses flowed through her mind to all these questions and people and things. How does a fish swim in the air, what's Minta like, don't drop the cup when ya sip from it, dummy, you lose a summer when the black clouds come with the ash and everything goes hazy and the trees die, how do you become a picture? She pressed her lips silent on them all, and instead looked with wide eyes as the man in the dark robes walked in. He frightened her, enough to hold her still like some sort of small creature, and his title only confirmed that instinct. Yet she held her breath as she leaned forward. The picture-man, Zool... was it? had said something about dragons and abductions, and she hung there, waiting for his next word...

Edited by Cricket

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

"So you admit you are a villain?" said the Swami in the same even tone he used earlier.

 

"Villain-ish, my good sir," replied Lord Dreadful in between bites of delicacies. "The particular adventure of which you speak is a good case in point. Princess Willamina and I had begun as partners - well, co-conspirators, to be technical - with the aim of getting her father to increase her allowance. I was completely taken in by her tears and her beauty, but quickly found out exactly why her father had set the limits he had. Then we fell under the power of the Magic Breathing Dragon, and hijinks ensued."

 

"I'd still like to know how it is you are alive," said Zool.

 

Lord Dreadful gave a half shrug, taking a moment to finish chewing, then said with a flair of his fingers, "Magic."

 

Zool could feel there was a story there, which he was about to start digging out but the Swami spoke first.

 

"Your reputation has preceded you Lord Dreadful - your reputation of charm, eloquence, and, shall we say, confidence making. Your stories seem so, shall we say, unlikely, compared to the common chronicles. It all seems so contrary - and your name is, after all, 'Lord Dreadful'"

 

"I'm sorry, you are..." replied Lord Dreadful, giving the Swami his full attention.

 

"Swami Noguru," said the Swami with a small nod.

 

"Ah yes, why I've heard of you too. I suppose you have the advantage of me, as your overt livelihood is, shall we say, as a showman. And as to my name, surely you wouldn't condemn a man for an accident of parentage?"

 

Not comfortable with where this seemed headed, Yasmina broke in, saying, "So how is it that you came to the Boaz Room tonight?" Zool and the Swami glared at her, which she pointedly didn't notice.

 

"My Lady that is a bit of a mystery to me too. You see, I had a bit of business to attend to across the forest, but a strange storm had come up, and I'm afraid I got a bit turned around in the wind and the dark, but then I saw a flash of something. Thinking perhaps there was a fellow traveler with a lantern ahead I followed the flashing, which was difficult, as it seemed to come and go erratically. Eventually I noticed it only flashed when the moon showed through the torn clouds."

 

"So it was a reflection," said Yasmina.

 

"Yes. But by that time I saw the lights of this Keep. Getting to the gates I recognized which Keep it was, as I have been here before, but the surprising thing was the source of the flashing, which was a large carp, swimming through the air."

 

Rydia's ears picked up. "That's my carp!" she said, clapping her empty glass down on the table which was immediately refilled.

 

"Is it?" said Dreadful. "Perhaps so, as I kept on following the fish, not knowing where else to go, and it eventually lead to the bottom of the stairs outside. I went up the stairs to meet that gorgeous Hostess, who directed me inside. As I said I was hungry."

 

"Where is Carp now?" asked Rydia.

 

"Oh, right here," said Dreadful, pulling the large carp out of his robe. Carp was NOT happy at having been confined to a robe! It fought furiously to escape Dreadful's grasp, sending plates and glasses flying, and diners scrambling.

 

"Don't let him go! Don't let him go!" screamed Rydia, earrings flashing as she lunged for the fish, but it was too late. Carp rocketed around the room, looking for an escape.

Edited by The Portrait of Zool

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

"Hello again," said Zool, peeking out from under his chair under the table.

 

When things started flying Cricket had ducked back under the table. Her chin trembled, but she held her tears, not sure just how to react to all that had gone on in such a short time. "That's some fish!" she finally blurted out, meaning it, and at the same time not sure what else to say. Then, one tear ran from her eye, tracing a single almost clean track down her face.

 

"Oh my dear - What's the matter?" said Zool, clueless, as always.

 

Cricket's face clouded over, but still she held her tears, from long practice. "I..." again she just didn't know what to say. Everything was so strange... and everyone was so... Clean! "I just..." she said hesitantly, then tried to bury herself in her own arms.

 

"Hmm... I think I see. Don't worry Cricket, we're going to take care of you." With that he popped up above the table long enough to give a loud whistle with his fingers between his lips, then he just as quickly popped back down. "Here's the plan," he said, keenly feeling his inability to put a reassuring hand on her shoulder. "The Boaz Room is a full service restaurant - and I mean FULL service!."

 

As he said this in under the table came a waiter and waitress. They came prepared this time, wearing civil defense helmets, the woman armed with a broom and the man with a mop. They were learning what to expect from this crowd.

 

Zool gave them a couple quick instructions which Cricket couldn't quite hear over the noise. They both nodded, and turned to Cricket. "Go with them, they will help you into some new clothes and with whatever else you need." He held his hand to his ear as though listening, then said, "I think it's quieting down out there - go with them, GO!"

 

It didn't sound any quieter to Cricket, there was still plenty of screaming and banging, but used to commands she reflexively jumped up and followed the waiters from under the table, across a short distance and out a servants door.

 

Zool wasn't sure what her next entrance would be like, but was looking forward to it! :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Mayhem had quickly ensued when the carp got free. Desperate for escape, it released it's full energy on the room. The patrons wisely ducked for cover.

 

Rydia ducked out of sheer necessity, with the uncontrolled energy of fish and all manner of random objects flying about. Presently, however, it began to dissipate. There are no windows in the Boaz Room, with one wall actually the outer wall of the Pen, and the others stoutly built. Carp found itself quite literally between a rock and a hard place. It had found freedom, but no escape. At last it hesitated, not having found any exit, and not sure what to do next.

 

Rydia took immediate advantage. She 'spoke' to Carp in a mixture of intuitive ear-speak and sparkle. All fish are very sensitive to sparkles - it's how they locate food, along with smell - and the ear speak was more wish than communication, but Rydia used what worked.

 

Carp caught sight of her, and immediately went to her. She was finally able to soothe and calm the great fish.

 

Gradually the dinner-goers began to come out. Once again, the clean-up brigade spilled out of the back room and straightened and cleaned with their usual efficiency. It was just a matter of minutes before the room was once again fit to eat in - and just as soon as that the new plates began arriving from the kitchen.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
"And that's my story," said Lord Dreadful, sitting down at the same time as a fresh plate was placed in front of him and wine was being poured into his new glass, then he looked around. "Where did Cricket go?" he asked.
"Cricket is currently indisposed," replied Zool to the collected company.
"Is she all right?" asked the Swami with evident and well deserved concern after recent events.

"Oh yes, quite all right. I'm sure she will be rejoining us presently, She just had a few things to attend to." said Zool before continuing by changing the subject. "That was quite a story Dreadful. Perhaps Swami you could tell us how you came to be at the Pen?" he enquired, turning to the enigmatic Noguru.

 

"I was in the neighborhood and thought I'd stop by."

 

The other revelers looked at him, a tinge suspiciously, he thought..

 

"No, really. I have a gig in the village and thought I'd stop by to see how my old pal Zool was doing, who I heard had taken up residence" said the Swami, somewhat apologetically. "And I'm glad I did. I'd heard you had changed, but had no idea...." The Swami was unable to finish the sentence, but decided to press on. "Please tell us... How did you come to the Pen - and how is it you were turned into a portrait?" The table nodded in unison, everyone's curiosity coming to the fore.

 

Zool sighed. That question never seemed to go away. Looking around at all the expectant faces he felt somewhat cornered, but after brief reflection resigned himself to the situation. "Well," he began, "The thing is a certain manservant had a lot to do with it, and I kinda promised him I'd keep it on the down-low, being as if certain people caught wind of it there might be some, err, consequences."

 

"You mean Grimmael cheated someone, so you've been afraid to tell anybody," said Lord Dreadful.

 

Zool blanched. "Now, I didn't say that, um, exactly... Oh, cheese and crackers! Grimmael seems to be uncharacteristically not around right now, so I'll just tell you the story - but remember I never mentioned his name!"

 

"Fair enough," said the Swami with a straight face, and everyone settled back for the curious tale of How Zool became a painting, and then came to be at the Pen is Mightier than the Sword!

Edited by The Portrait of Zool

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

"It was a dark and stormy night. The place was Terra Old. The time was... Armageddon!Rain and wind howled over the expansive black plain. As far as the eye could see the ground moved in slow writhing motion as millions of Zombies and Skeletons guarded their territory. To the rear was a thick band of Lich, and the sky was thick with Vampires and the stench and groans of the Zoms.The time was right...Arcing over the hills came the oil flasks. The Nether units didn't even know they were being attacked until the flasks shattered against them and the ground, saturating everything in extremely flammable oils. Then the Red Dragons roared over the hills, hundreds of them, mighty wings spread wide. The enemy didn't even have time to turn before the sky split in a searing blast. Inferno, the ultimate offensive Eradication Magic battle spell had been released. The ground trembled, then shook, then broke apart, opening below their feet. White hot Lava fountained from the depths of Terra, incinerating to ash a million oil drenched Zoms and Skels in a single instant. Through the inferno roared the Dragons, incinerating another million in their first pass.The dark land was now a molten hell, the mountains leveled, the air crackling and sulpherous.A very beautiful victory, indeed..."Zool took a breath, interrupting his narration to let out a tremendous sigh. "But it couldn't last." he said, quickly resuming his introduction. "The final fall of Terra Old was the fall of Zool. The Nether mage survived my assault, and in his counterstrike I was decimated, annihilated, eradicated - killed to death." He sighed again, all observing a short moment of silence for Zool's passing. "Even worse, unlike the majority of mages, I wasn't the best at long term planning. While others had made preparations for the escape of Terra Old, I was so absorbed in the gratuitous passions of magery that I had not, and so when the diaspora came I was left trapped in the nine hells, unable to reincarnate, as there was no longer anything to incarnate to. Of course it is timeless in hell, every moment an eternity, so I can't say just how long I was actually there. I had no hope - or so I thought. It eventually turned out I did have one hope, the same hope that had saved me countless times on Terra - and that was Grimmael. It turned out he had survived the obliteration of Terra Old, escaping to Terra New.""If the destruction was as complete as you say, how did he ever escape?" interrupted Lord Dreadful, with a slight smirk and one eyebrow raised. "I mean, I don't intend to throw doubts on your story, but Grimmael has no magic or for that matter any discernible skills whatsoever, so it does seem rather unlikely he could escape the destruction of an entire world, don't you think?""I don't know, as he has never related the details to me" replied Zool, "He merely indicated that the less I know about that the better, but if you will let me finish the story you will soon find that he isn't as helpless or talentless as you seem to think - far from it! And besides, I find my story every bit as likely as following a flashing fish through a forest at night during a storm."Dreadful had nothing to say to that retort, allowing Zool to continue...

Edited by The Portrait of Zool

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

"The Terra he found himself in was vastly different from the Terra he had escaped," said Zool. "For one thing, his surroundings were now the result of geography and climate, rather than the whim of whoever ruled the Magedom he happened to be in. This told him something right away. Instead of the various Keeps of the Lords, he needed to scout the taverns and back woods for what he needed, which was sorcery - and a lot of it.Funny thing about Grimmael and magic: He has a very pragmatic approach, treating it like any ordinary force, like the operation of some sort of clockwork or even outright chicanery. I mean, he depends on it, the same as any other, but it can be remarkable his unflappability in the face of the most awesome displays of magical force. When I found him and took him in I at first thought he might have been impressed with some of my own displays of the Eradication arts, but in our time together I never saw him impressed at all - not in the least."Lord Dreadful gave one short bark of laughter, then managed to get control of himself by clapping one hand over his mouth and the other over his eyes, planting his elbows solidly on the table. He quickly recovered, looking up at Zool and apologizing. "Sorry. My tourette's acts up every once in a while. Please, continue."Even the Swami had to smile at that.Zool glared at Dreadful for a full five seconds before again continuing. "Despite this inexplicable attitude towards my magic..." Again Zool glared, but Dreadful maintained perfect control. "...and magic in general, Grimmael knew that in order to save his Master that is what he needed. Not having any himself, he set out to find what he needed."If I could ask a question...?" said Yasmina, feeling it was once again time to redirect the discussion, and head off the rising tensions."Of course, Lady Yasmina," said Zool with a feeling of exaggerated largesse and a quick glance of disdain towards Dreadful. "I'm always open to a question.""Didn't you ever try to teach Grimmael any magic?""Of course! But he just shrugged it off.""Why would he do that? Where did he come from anyway?"Zool look thoughful. "Ya know, he never told me where he was from, insisting that he had left his past and wanted nothing to do with it. As to the magic, he wouldn't explain that either, though he did say once he had had all the power a man could ever want, and it didn't do anything for him... or something like that. I don't think he quite used those words..." Zool faded into a far away gaze for a moment, then snapped back to the present. "But if I may say so, my dear, this story is about me, so I should probably speak of something I know.""Oh," said Yasmina, somewhat taken aback, "Of course. My apologies.""Quite all right dear," replied Zool congenially.Yasmina looked around the table helplessly. Dreadful's mouth quivered, his expression teetering on the edge of control. The Swami grinned. Zool blithely forged ahead."Now, where was I? Oh yes..."

Edited by The Portrait of Zool

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

"Grimmael knew the first thing he would need was a base of operation. As much as he was capable of living in the forest, he needed to put his time towards other things than just surviving. Being the faithful servant that he is, He didn't want me languishing in the pits of hell any longer than absolutely necessary. Fortunately he had had the foresight to grab a fistful of Geld before he left Terra Old.Unfortunately things were not to start smoothly. On trying to procure room and board, he produced his Geld coins to pay for it and was told they weren't any good. The proprietor said that he would have to exchange the Terra Old Geld for Terra New Geld, and that the exchange rate was 10 to 1!He declined, but on looking around he found that the fix was in - every shop in town stubbornly held to the same rule, even though the new Geld was almost exactly like the old Geld, being the same size and shape and made of Gold, but with a different design on it. Clearly, the businesses of Terra New were profiting from the fall of Terra Old, and in a big way. Though his new home was certainly more peaceful, This was his first indication that cunning and treachery were still alive and well.Grimmael accepts a very humble station in life for himself, preferring service above pride (just one of his many unfathomable quirks) but given the situation, the fact that I was counting on him, he did not take that lying down. Calculating that if he accepted the going exchange rate he wouldn't have enough left to last a week, he took his old Geld coins into the forest and reworked them into new Geld. Now while...""If I could ask a question..." interrupted Dreadful again, raising a finger.Zool sighed. I'm going to regret this, he murmured to himself, saying aloud, "What is it?""You said Grimmael had no magic, so just how did he change the old Geld into new Geld?"All eyes turned to Zool. "He re-struck them, of course," was the reply.All heads swiveled to Lord Dreadful. He put on his best 'confused' face, relishing the spotlight, and said slowly, dramatically, emphasizing every word, "Re-struck them how?""Well, he went into the forest... there were chips of stone lying about, he simply...""That's ridiculous," snapped Dreadful. "Such a feat is surely impossible. even for an able-bodied person.""Oh, but he did do exactly that!" said Zool vehemently. "Not only that, but when he went back into town the coins were accepted without question!""I find that difficult to believe," stated Dreadful, folding his arms. "The very notion, even were he a master metal smith, is absurd. What did he do next, make a portal to hell out of a bear skin and a mayonnaise jar?" There were several guffaws at that from the other diners, causing Dreadful to almost smile. Zool turned red, but seemed to take stock and decide on a new strategy, visibly taking hold of himself. "Lord Dreadful," he said at last, seeming to measure each word, "I realize that reworking a coin face to convincingly look like a different coin is a very difficult task, especially given the conditions under which he had to work. I submit that this is exactly what makes it worthy of being included in the story, and not just that, it is what actually happened. In all honesty, I admit I didn't stop to think of it as critically as you when it was first related to me, but then I have known Grimmael for a long time, and such a thing from him does not surprise me, because I know him, and I know him to be a very talented servant."Dreadful shook his head. "That too is just as inexplicable. If he is truly as capable as you say, why would he ever choose to be a servant?"Zool nodded. "Yes, on the face of it that also looks inexplicable, but you can be assured he has his reasons, or so he has assured me, and proven to me through his many years of faithful service."Dreadful opened his mouth to speak, but Zool was quicker, cutting him off. "Now IF you will allow me to finish my story - a story which you all demanded I tell - I think it will answer most, if not all, of your questions - IF you will let me tell it!"Several of the diners were now glaring at Lord Dreadful, causing him to acquiesce."Very well then," continued Zool. "As I said, while out in the forest..."

Edited by The Portrait of Zool

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest
This topic is now closed to further replies.

×