Johan, Liam, Yael and Leo were relaxing at the Screaming Ghost Tavern. It was lunchtime and the place was packed. New merchant ships sponsored from the Silken Chord business conglomerate arrived that morning and everyone was excited to see the exotic cargoes of silk, wines and foodstuffs from as far away as the City States of Tabras, Hatra and Ulanyke.
After Grace took their orders for lunch, Johan said to his friends, “Yes guys, it is time we began planning our assault on the Dragon on the Western Forsaken Island. I am really not sure how the 10th Brigade can assist us with this and since Ambassador Gargemeleche’s surprise visit three months ago, there has not been any sign of the feared humanoid invasion fleet yet. It seems we have collected a wide variety of stories about the Dragon that would be exciting to read in a fictional adventure novel, but very little practically to go on.”
Leonidas had other thoughts on his mind. As Ed walked passed their table, Leo politely stopped him and asked, “Say Ed, I would like to arrange for an evening with your hostess Grace Hamilton. I understand that she is highly sought after and I would be happy to pay you in advance for her services.”
Ed looked sidelong at Leo and said frankly, “I am sorry, Mage, but Grace Hamilton refuses to service anyone from the Gamemaster’s University after what happened almost four years ago.”
Leo’s heart clicked as he remembered some of his instructions from his superiors. He began to wonder if he was about to strike some pay dirt and asked, “What happened?”
Ed always enjoyed sharing tales and this one was no different. “Almost four years ago, a young, arrogant, handsome and domineering fellow named Marcus Laertes Worthington marched into the tavern here swinging his staff and tossing about gold coins. After amusing some of the locals with magic tricks from his wand and bragging about what a powerful wizard he was, he caught sight of Grace and promptly tossed her ten gold coins asking for immediate service. Grace complied though she was a bit provoked at how over proud and bullying this mage seemed. Anyways, both he and Grace promptly went upstairs even though it was only two o’clock in the afternoon. Everything seemed normal and no one at the time gave this any unusual thought.”
Ed Martin paused for effect here and noticed the entire table listening as well as a few bystanders. Pleased to have a captive audience, he continued, “No more than ten minutes later, everyone downstairs heard both Grace and this Wizard screaming and yelling at each other at the top of their lungs. Now we all know that sometimes our little Grace likes things rough, but I was about to climb the stairs to find out what the ruckus was about.”
Granny Jacoba, who was also listening to Ed’s story with Atalanta by the bar, jumped into this conversation. “You were too scared to look Ed. I was about to go up the stairs as I was worried about Grace.” Both Jacoba and Atalanta started snickering.
Ed, raising his eyebrows a bit at his sister for a moment but decided to continue his yarn, “Suddenly there was a flash, a bang and then black smoke poured out of the room Grace and that wizard were in as the door hurled off its hinges over the balcony and right down into the common area. Before anything else happened, poor Grace came staggering down the stairs all covered with minor cuts, burns and soot and she was pretty put out and angry. Grace looked right at me and roared, ‘That damned fool almost destroyed the whole second floor with his magic trying to impress me and I think he vaporized himself. I do not care how much money is offered next time, Ed, I am NOT servicing any more Gamemaster’s University magicians! I do not want to be turned into a toad or an ugly, old, hag just because I like to take things slow sometimes.’”
Ed sighed a moment and then said, “Anyway, no one, least of all me, would have disagreed or argued with Grace then or now about her selection of her customers. When Grace gets riled up, even her favorite man Joseph ducks and covers,” Ed concluded.
Everybody laughed and chuckled heartily, and Liam snorted, “Actually I think that wizard you described got exactly what he deserved and I am glad that Grace emerged relatively unscathed.”
Leonidas, outwardly disappointed, said to Ed, “So, what you are saying is that Grace will not have me because of my robes? Could I change her mind about this?”
“I doubt it,” Ed replied. “Grace is set in her ways and everyone benefits more when she is calm.”
“Why should I not blow off a little steam once in a while Ed?” Grace interjected right behind him.
Everyone at the table saw Grace arriving with their lunch on a large tray. Grace was glaring at Ed as she carefully set their food down. Ed politely said, “Grace is the best waitress, hostess and shift manager here, fellas, so please do not cross her.” Ed quickly backed away behind the bar towards the kitchen and Jacoba was still smirking at him.
Grace, seemingly mollified, smiled to the table and said sweetly, “You guys want anything else?”
Leo politely answered, “Not at the moment, Ma’am, but please let me know if you change your policy about wizards and will have me sometime.”
Grace responded graciously, “Keep showing good manners and perhaps I will consider it later.” She then smiled and also headed back towards the kitchen.
Johan, Liam, Yael and Leo all set to their food which they were enjoying very much. Johan sat back after taking a good pull from a wine flask Grace gave him when one of his pouches came undone and a fire opal gem clattered to the floor. He picked it up remembering that it was his magical gem of seeing. This gem had unique properties that anyone looking through it could see through illusions, phantasms and shape changing spells, as well as any other invisibility or concealments. Upon reflection, Johan decided to clean the gem before putting it away so he began to wipe it off with his napkin and a little water.
Johan suddenly froze. He could not believe what he thought he momentarily saw mirrored through this gem. Shocked to his very core, Johan put the gem to his eye and carefully surveyed the entire Screaming Ghost common room. After he finished, Johan gulped and quietly said to Liam, “Without reacting, please take a look through my magic gemstone and let me know what you see.”
Liam took the gem, expecting some sort of joke, and began also scanning the room. Liam exclaimed, “Hey, look at the sexy succubus behind the bar – YEOW!” For a moment, Liam was hooting and wolf whistling openly though no one seemed to notice.
Johan sighed and said, “Liam, please keep your voice down and look more to your left.”
Liam did as he was instructed and also suddenly froze. He almost dropped the gem and looked through it twice. His huge, muscular arm trembled a little, and Liam swiftly handed the gem back to Johan who then put it carefully away. “What in all the immortal’s names should we do?” Liam asked.
“Certainly nothing here and nothing now Liam. I am not even sure if we should inform Arthur, whoops, I mean our Baron,” Johan replied.
“What are you two blathering about,” Yael asked.
“Let’s just finish our lunch and take a walk,” Johan suggested as he returned to his meal.
Grace came back with their check. “Hope you gentlemen adventurers enjoyed your lunch.
Leo, unaware that anything was amiss, rose, smiled and said, “Thank you Ma’am. It was a fine lunch and we will be back.” He flirted with his eyes.
“You all better come back or I may have to hunt you down and kill you,” Grace playfully replied.
Oddly enough, Liam paled. Johan rose with the others and offered a handsome tip to Grace for their meal. She beamed at him, when Johan calmly replied, “No worries M’Lady Grace. We will probably be back either for supper or breakfast tomorrow.”
“It’s a date,” Grace said and she winked as she began clearing off their table. The four adventurers nodded politely and confidently strode through the swinging doors heading outside and towards the west end of town for a very interesting chat.