Chapter 10 - Gifts and Bribery Policy

“Ah good you are awake.” The young dwarf said.

“Where am I?” Elric said as he took in a deep breath and held it some. He squared his shoulders and focused on building up some power.

“My home, remember you’re here to update some doors.” The young dwarf said. “Oh dear, I hope you falling off the horse didn’t injure your head that badly.”

“What horse? I can’t ride?” Elric struggled to remember the past day but everything from breakfast at the tavern was fuzzy.

“That is definitely correct.” The young dwarf chuckled a little. “Norman said he had to strap you to the horse to get you here for healing.”

“Oh I had a healing potion,” Elric reached for the pocket he kept healing potions in. The damp exterior of the pocket and click of broken glass stopped him. “Or I did.”

“It is my fault, I should have sent a carriage but it slipped my mind.” The little dwarf bowed deeply to Elric. “Oh forgive me, my name is Lich-in-stein.”

“My pleasure,” Elric reach out a hand to shake and a gloved dwarven hand grasped his. “Whatever healing you gave me must have worked well, I’m feeling well enough to start resetting the doors.”

“Excellent, would you be able to teach me the spell as well?”

“I… I…” Elric stuttered as he tried to speak. The polite words he was trying to form wouldn’t come out. In the back of his mind he knew there was only one answer he could give. “No.”

Lichinstein nodded his head as if expected. He briefly reached to his side and a filled bag appeared in his hand. The faint sounds of metal touching metal filled the silence.

“Would this change anything?” Lichinstein held out the bag easily within Elric’s reach.

“I… I…” Elric sighed and didn’t attempt to struggle further. “No.”

“Your employer has placed a spell upon you to prevent spilling any secrets.”

“I think so.” Elric was able to easily speak and form words for that response at least. He was glad he didn’t have to keep that a secret. There are stories of people going mad when repeatedly asked questions they couldn’t answer due to compulsion spells. “You’re welcome to watch while I work.”

“Bah, it wont help. I watched when they installed them, but I’m missing some piece.”

“Oh its… the…” Elrics mouth stopped working. He tried to think of something else but it took a moment to regain control of his voice. “I like beer and cake.”

“What?”

“Just making sure I could talk again,” then Elric tried thinking of a work around. Briefly envisioning Eft was in the room, he attempted to speak but even before his mouth was open he knew no words would come out.

“What a powerful compulsion, even when unconscious the same. I wonder if you really work of your own free will.”

“I’m not a slave.” Elric quickly said, then considered if that was a programmed response or if he truely believed it. “I’m a slave. Na, I’m not, if you were to program someone into being a slave you’d include a denial with it to keep them from dwelling on it.” At this Lichinstein laughed.

“We could probably debate this for days and not come up with an answer. Possibly end up with the caveat, there is always magic that we don’t understand.” Carefully he lifted a mug of beer to his lips and took a drink. “In a way we are all slaves to something or someone.”

“No disrespect but the sooner I get your UL-Dr2142’s reconfigured, the sooner I’ll be out of your hair.”

“Alright then, small note, if your employer asks. The compulsion is quiet good, even works when subject is unconscious.”  Lichinstein said then turned around quickly. Not a drop of beer spilled from his mug as it sloshed around. He beckoned with a finger and stepped out of the room.

“Wait,” Elric said, and with a hurry he grabbed his boots and rushed after the dwarf barefoot. “What do you mean by unconscious?”

“Nothing, nothing, come lets get you started.”

Elric stepped through the door, the dim hallway on the other side was barely lit by a few glowing lights along the wall. Lichinstein stood a few feet down the hallway in front of another door. With a glance towards Elric, he turned the handle and stepped into the room.

Elric caught up to the dwarf, the room had a wall covered in books. Across from the books set deep into the wall was a fireplace. Two plush chairs covered in cloth formed a triangle facing each other and the fireplace. He held his tongue as the dwarf headed towards the fireplace. When the dwarf turned a candlestick, Elric couldn’t hold back a snort.

“Excuse me?” Lichinstein said as he turned the candlestick. Slowly the fireplace rotated until there was a little two foot wide opening.

“I apologize, it is just the fireplace is so cliche.” Elric quickly said as he gave a little bow of respect.

“Oh,” Lichinstein said as he beckoned Elric into the tunnel. Elric entered first, the dark stairs were lit by torches held onto the wall. Lichinstein stepped in behind and turned a lever closing the fireplace. “I used to have a much harder to find entrance. One only those with a token of mine could open.” He said as he walked down the stairs.

They went about twenty feet under ground before the stairs stopped at a landing. A single hallway leading left and right. Both were well lit and Elric detected a gentle slope downwards with each. Lichinstein stopped at the landing, turned and looked at Elric.

“In fact, one year a group with a powerful cleric summoned an earth elemental. They dug giant holes all over the property before they found one of the tunnels. Took me weeks to fill them back in and erase the damage.” Lichinstein said before turning to the left and walking.

“Another time, some powerful wizards used decanter of endless waters to turn the area into a swamp. Then with powerful spells scooped the mud away. Once they exposed a tunnel, they tried drowning everyone in it. I lost 200 goblins from drowning.”

The hallway turned left again this time a couple of doors lined the left hand side. With a wave of his hand, Lichinstein created a glowing blue path of force about an inch above the ground. Without any instruction the dwarf stepped onto the path and kept walking down the hallway.

“No matter what I do, I cannot hide the magic of my lair. I like being close to the town for supplies, and I do sell some ale to them. In fact I make sure my workers and contractors do not bother the town.” The dwarf stopped for a moment and gave a weary sigh. “Sadly no matter my efforts, they fear me. I would say they don’t understand me, but even I don’t understand myself.” The blue walkway ran almost to the end of the hallway which turned left again. The dwarf stopped at the corner and waited for Elric.

“So you put in a door, thats easy to find.” Elric said as he stepped off the blue walkway.

“Aye, much easier than having to redo landscaping or add in a drainage system to every hallway.”

“And I’m sure it lulls them into a sense of security.” Elric said as he nodded his head. The dwarf’s only answer for this was a big smile.

“The first two installations are up a head. The two doors on the right. The two doors on the left are also trapped, I don’t recommend using them. I’ll have Norman bring some food and water in 30 minutes for you.”

“Thank you,”

“If you need to use a restroom, wait for Norman. There are many traps in there deadlier than the coat hooks.”

“Coat hooks?” Elric furrowed his brow as he tried searching his memory. So much of the past day was just fuzz. “I don’t remember any coat hooks. Do you have a mimic trap?”

“Oh, sorry I forgot. Don’t worry, just don’t wander, don’t touch anything except the two doors on the right.” Lichinstein walked up to the area near the doors and pointed at them.

Elric slowly started walking forward. His mind was racing with questions and ideas on how to get answers from the undead dwarf. Before he got to Lichinstein, the dwarf pulled out a mug of bubbling green beer. He tipped the glass back to his lips and took a long draught.

As the dwarf lowered his mug, he licked his lips. A burp and hiccup erupted from inside the dwarven body. A little green bubble burst forth from his mouth. Expanding in size the bubble quickly surrounded the dwarf. With a wave the bubble and dwarf lowered through the floor.

Left alone in a hallway, surrounded by traps, Elric wondered what else the dwarf did while he was unconscious.

“Fuck! I’m never traveling for work again.” He called out into the empty hallway.

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