Mother Goose Chase
Chapter 15 - A Meeting with a Scottish Lawyer
After the dragon has had a good stretch, and a few rabbits, we pop it back into mastiff form and return to Edinburgh.
Fallataal expresses his discomfort with trying to pass as a mortal human with a sister and an uncle, so the role of nephew is taken by Gannar, and Salimar morphs to look like him. We decide that showing a picture of the man in Salimar's retrocog is our best bet. We buy some paper, an ink cake, and a bundle of quills. Kate calmly trims a quill to her liking and mixes up some ink, while Robbie gazes in horror at these primitive preparations. She then struggles to compose a letter, purportedly from the missing uncle. ("Dere Alfred, Alle heere continus as befoure... I have mett a gentelman who hath made an intaresting propozeal, & I shalle be joyning him shourtly in Ehdinborou. I am, as ever, youre Oncle, Jaimes.") Robbie then fights it out with the quill pen, finally producing a creditable sketch of our quarry. We will pass it off as a drawing by Kate's brother John, apprentice to James, that we think is a portrait of the Edinburgh gentleman our uncle met. That's vague enough so we shouldn't get into trouble.
We fold up the letter and seal it with some candle wax. We unseal it, unfold it and refold it a few times, dirty it, and put a grease stain on it. Lovely.
Since our coin is known to be in a person's possession, we decide to take a good look at the ones we have, in daylight, so we can give a good description. Each one is the size of a silver dollar, with a coppery sheen and a milled edge. The reverse of each is a wreath of oak leaves around an acorn. The obverses are different, but each is the profile of a elvish face, one even with pointy ears, and Tengwar writing around the edge. The coins feel flat; their images are holographic. They're beautiful, but we are not pleased with them. At all.
Undaunted, we start to show the picture around. It is not recognized at our tavern, or at the gate. (This is the gate he came in! These guys should have been on duty. They should recognize him!) We start checking at other taverns, and get a positive response after trying several. One fellow admits to sort-of recognizing him as someone who comes in from time to time, but he can't put a name to him. We give the fellow a coin and our current address.
Back outside, we try a dowse and fail again. We continue on, and soon detect that we are moving into a more upscale neighborhood, one more in keeping with our quarry's dress. We go from shop to shop without success, but have better luck at a little Catholic chapel. The priest recognizes him as a Mr. Daniel Latimer, a solicitor, who shops nearby and stops in for his devotions. The priest then gives us clear directions to his home/place of business. We thank him sincerely, and drop a few coins in the poor box.
The directions are accurate as well as clear, and we are soon looking up at a particular narrow, three-story building on a street of tall crammed buildings. The sign says, "Daniel Latimer, Solicitor" and has a quill painted over the name, with a set of scales on one side, and an armillary sphere on the other. We think we understand the quill and scales, but the sphere is a bit of a puzzle.
We dowse again for the coin, but the only one with any luck is Robbie, who, judging by his suddenly waxy appearance, has had very *bad* luck. Despite this setback, Robbie decides to search the house via a third eye. He should have waited until he recovered.
While he is still looking for a path into the house, he absent-mindedly pops a third eye out of the top of his head. A respectable lady who was passing by must have seen this; she looks aghast and crosses herself. Robbie quickly whisks it out of sight behind a roof, but she notices that too, and crosses herself again.
Robbie decides to bluff his way out. He tries to look nonchalant, and asks her what her problem is.
She can't articulate it, but, since his behavior is not nonchalant, she now has something to vent against. "Are ye havin' me on and aboot? Do ye be some mountebank?"
This is a story Robbie can work with. "Why, yes. I am part of a mystery troupe."
The woman looks around at our ill-assorted lot and turns red. It seems to strike her as a plausible story. Robbie added a finishing touch by doffing his hat, and showing that it is full of eyeballs.
The lady rails on at some length, giving Robbie (and us) a piece of her mind, but finally gathers her skirts and bustles off. Robbie is philosophical; mountebanks like him have to get used to such things.
As soon as the tension dissipates, Markel uses his second sight to examine the ground floor office. Mr. Latimer is working at his desk, and he looks just like his vision. Markel starts to examine the office itself, but as he does so, our Daniel looks around, and then looks up in the vicinity of the viewpoint. The dragonrider drops his perspective.
Robbie tries again. He sends an eye up to the roof and slowly down through the chimney. He arrives at a pleasant bedroom, with an old lady sewing near the window. He draws the eye back, and then further down the chimney to another, empty bedroom. This is probably the solicitor's, since there are shelves laden with books. The eye scans the titles, and Robbie finds that a lot of them are in Latin. He finds a few that aren't, such as a "History of Scotland" and "Twerp's Peerage." There, on a table, the eye observes an armillary sphere, some metal instruments, and some papers.
Robbie decides it is more important to do a full sweep than a careful examination, and so maneuvers his eye through the door to the next room, apparently the dining room, with its table, four chairs, and matching hutch. The only other door out of this room is closed. He returns to the bedroom, to see if he can learn anything about the odd tools. The papers show circles, concentric ones and intersecting ones, with straight lines, and simple symbols. The armillary sphere also has those symbols inscribed on it. It might have something to do with astrology.
Salimar checks the Map of Here, but finds nothing of use. She then tries her third sight, starting from the basement. Oh, there isn't one. She raises her viewpoint and looks at the ground floor, starting diagonally opposite the office. She works her way back up to the master bedroom.
As she is doing this, someone suggests that we could be a circus troupe, looking for the ancient and valuable coin lost by... our gypsy. Salimar snaps back to here, and starts transforming herself into a gypsy with a crystal ball. Salimar is not the only one who likes this plan; it seems to suit us all. She borrows some scarves from Daphne, producing a wonderfully plausible effect. Backed by Fallataal (the proprietor of the circus) and Dafnord (the musc-- strong man), she enters Mr. Latimer's dwelling and office. Kate broadcasts everything to the others over the net. Robbie moves his eye into the little corridor between the bedroom and dining room.
"Domination of Mercury," he says absently as he looks up. "May I help ye?"
"We have lost an heirloom. The stars have told us that you are the person to help us."
He brightens. "Ye mean the fairy coin?"
Amid scarf-embellished gestures, Salimar gives a full description of the coin. The outside people wince. Still, if he admits so readily to having it, we should be able to get it. All we have to do is agree on a price.
The solicitor nods happily. "The stars ha' told to me that ye would be coming along to get it of me."
With more flourishes, Salimar asks if he could possibly direct us to our coin.
This recalls him to his position in the legal profession, and, perhaps, his identity as a Scot. "Yes, I could be givin' ye the assistance ye need, for a fee."
That was only to be expected. Salimar suggest the price should be commensurate with his effort (small), but Daniel suggests it should be commensurate with its value to us (large). Salimar warns that the coin generates problems when it is away from its rightful place with her. Daniel hints that he would like to hear a price.
Suddenly there is a yellow gem in one of Fallataal's hands and a small knife in the other. With a tiny gesture, the objects reverse hands. Daniel raises an eyebrow. The elf places the gemstone on the desk. Daniel nods. Salimar adds a random coin; it's a copper one.
Daniel asks, "So this would be yer offer?" Fallataal nods.
Daniel does not seem impressed. "I have heard that... folk such as yerselves are capable of many an interesting boon."
Cautiously, Salimar asks, "Such as...?"
Finally, the solicitor gets to the point. "Luck."
Oh, he wants to become lucky. We can give skills and knowledge, but he wants luck. Salimar tries to find a way, preferably honest, around this problem. "What sort of luck? Some luck can be bestowed, but some comes only from the stars."
The gem is not the only trinket of interest in Fallataal's pockets. He pulls out a real shamrock in gold, genuine fay-work. He puts it down on the desk, and takes back the gem and the coin.
Warily, Daniel picks it up and looks at it, then takes up a magnifying glass and examines it more closely. Since it is real, it is perfect in every detail at any magnification. He is clearly very impressed, but he holds by his chief desire. "So this would be a lucky charm?"
Fallataal only smiles and gives a scanty half-nod.
Salimar bores in, hoping that we can find some sort of substitute for luck that we can get for him. "What luck do you need?"
"What I'm needing is help in political matters. As all folk know, the queen has had a sore time of it, with her secretary David Rizzio murdered right in front of her early this year, while she was expecting her dear child, James...." Daniel Lattimer slowly gets around to his actual difficulty. He has two clients, James Donahue and Andrew Gordon, who used to be friends, but who are now political opponents. Each wishes him to cast a horoscope to predict if the other will outlive him or not. He is not in the habit of doing such things, and he is at a standstill.
Gannar, our only student of history, starts feeding Salimar data, as she sets up her crystal ball in a nest of scarves, with the shamrock on top. Our alien enigmatically states that Bothwell's faction will continue to have total influence with the queen for the rest of her life, and gives the season (next spring) in which that very faction will fail.
After she has given him that information, and more, he excuses himself, and heads off to his bedroom. He passes the eyeball in the corridor, and seems bothered by it, although he doesn't seem to see it. In his bedroom, he looks directly at Salimar's third sight viewpoint, but then turns his attention to the table. He gathers up all the books, and returns downstairs.
He begins to cast a horoscope. After ten minutes, Salimar finally tries to remind him that we are waiting. "Sir? The coin?"
Daniel looks up and focuses. "The coin. I have not forgotten it." He returns to his work. He is going to calculate real horoscopes, and not just fudge based on our information. Time passes. The group outside retreats to a tavern, where we will be less conspicuous. Robbie retrieves his third eye. Salimar scans every book on the shelves in the office, and finds without surprise that many of them are astrological tomes. She finally closes down her third sight up in his bedroom.
Idly, she examines the working astrologer psychically, and discovers that he is radiating psychic energy. His horoscopes may work out well after all. "May I help you with your calculations?" she asks.
"Ye can fetch me my Euclid," he responds, with a gesture towards the upstairs. She heads off, and encounters an old woman who is not the old woman on the top floor. She explains that she is a client and that she has been sent to fetch the Euclid. The woman nods and gets it for her.
Salimar hands the book over, and asks, "Is there anything else we can help you with?" as Daniel eagerly thumbs through the calf-bound tome.
He shakes his head absently. "I don't see how. I'm trying to answer some horary questions."
She knows every title in his library by the time he finishes, two hours later.
He gets up. "Now. We'll go after this coin of yourn." Fallataal follows him up to the dining room, where they encounter the same old woman that Salimar met.
"Is this another client?" she asks.
"Sort of" is the reply.
"Staying to dinner?" She clearly hopes that the answer is "no."
"No." Fallataal surreptitiously leaves a piece of elven waybread on the table, an oblique retort to those who are reluctant with their hospitality.
Daniel goes into the bedroom, and immediately returns with a short iron bar in his hand. They return downstairs, and rejoin the others. Markel leaves the tavern and is there to join them when they emerge from the house. The five head down to a different one of the city gates, and soon find themselves walking along an unfamiliar road.
Soon Daniel leaves the road, and starts digging under a bush. He quicklyu produces a dull grey matchbox-sized box. He runs the iron bar around it, and the box opens. Inside is the mate to our two coins, imbedded in one side of the box. He pries it out and hands it to Salimar. With a flourish, she shines it and puts it away.
The solicitor bows to her and her companions. Rising, he says, "I think we have had a profitable transaction."
We smile and nod. Fallataal raises one finger and says, "Silence."
Daniel flicks an eyebrow. "Another valuable commodity." He smiles. We are agreed.
The group walks back into Edinburgh. At the gate, our solicitor bows again and heads off the way he came. Our four are immediately joined by the rest of the party. We head back to the inn.
©2002,2005 Ann Broomhead and Earl Wajenberg. All Rights Reserved.