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james garrison, 16 Apr '13

Gnosiomandus: Dead Letters (2)

Smash! Two grad-students crashed into the wall not three feet from Gnosiomandus. It was Finals week. He skirted around the grim combatants. The hall monitors would deal with them soon enough. They usually did.

He was in a hurry and didn't see much point in getting embroiled in another needless academic dispute. Let them settle it. He had things to attend to. Important things.

Three flights up the brass and onyx spiral stairs. Down the dim hallway lined with blacked-out paintings. Around the corner. Past the neglected statue of Gertimer Riezal, mostly-forgotten founder of the now mostly abandoned film archives. Another corner. Three steps. There it was. On the left. As usual. He knocked on the iron-banded door.

Knocked again.

Again.

The door groaned open. Gnosiomandus entered. The door latched shut behind him. There must have been fifty-three locks and bars on the thing on this side. He shook his head. It seemed so pointless. But everyone had their own rituals and this was something that Dunbar found comforting...and there was precious little comfort in Wermspittle.

“You require my services again, eh Gnosiomandus?” Dunbar looked up from his massively over-burdened desk. It was, if anything, far more cluttered, mounded, heaped and piled than anything Gnosiomandus had ever seen. And he had seen quite a lot.

“Your services and your discretion.”

“Ah. In that case my price has just tripled.” The old scholar cackled at his own wittiness as he lumbered out from behind the desk. From the waist down he had the body of a great, flabby bear.

“I guessed as much.” Gnosiomandus nodded. He knew how much Dunbar liked to dicker and haggle over the price of his services. The old cryptographer was lonely. It was a kindness to let him play his little games. But there wasn't a lot of time to waste on such pleasantries.

“You're still here? You'd pay that much?” Dunbar snorted. Then he really looked at his old friend. He lost his crooked smile.

“I'm still here. We have yet to settle on a price.”

“Ha. Fine. Tell me what it is that you need of me and I'll give you an estimate.” Dunbar's eyes twinkled with mischief behind his many-lensed working-glasses. He smelled something better than simple profit.

“No. First I want to put you on retainer--”

“I'll not be bound!”

“Of course n--”

“I'm no demon to be conjured and to have bindings placed on me like a noose—Never!” Dunbar reared up on his heavy haunches. His middle set of paws sported some distressingly large claws.

“Of course not. I wouldn't dream of it. I merely wish to settle the matter of your discretion before we settle on your price.” Gnosiomandus centered himself, locking down his aura so as not to emit the slightest taint of fear.

“I know how to keep my mouth shut. I never told anyone about Glissindra's theft of the Hieroparser. I didn't so much as breathe a word regarding Jasker's improprieties, nor Liswell's blackmailing of Kurtz over something so silly as a simple massacre--”

“Yes. Of course. But I must have your word--”

“My Word?!? Why ever for? Don't you trust me?” Dunbar looked deeply wounded. Except for the sly twinkle in his eyes.

Gnosiomandus stared at the bear-bottomed cryptographer.

“Fine. Yes. You have my curiosity piqued now, of course, you have my word.”

“I have your word that you'll keep silent about what I'm about to tell you, to show you?”

“Is this really necessary?” Dunbar growled pensively.

“Your word Dunbar?” Gnosiomandus watched carefully for any detectable sign of prevarication or hesitation.

“Yes. I'll keep my mouth shut.” Dunbar's lower body crouched in an almost sphinx-like pose.

“I appreciate your discretion old friend--”

“And you'll pay for it too. One thousand Marks, and none of those half-sized new bills printed with the cheap orange ink. Terrible, worthless stuff. I mean the old ones. When they were still backed by real reserves, not empty promises.”

“Of course.” Gnosiomandus smiled. A Thousand Marks wasn't exactly cheap, but he could afford it. He had plenty of old Marks set aside from when a group of his students had discovered a private vault last summer in Praetizar. That had been a particularly lucrative bit of field-work. They had all bought passage as far away from Wermspittle as they could get. One of them had practically bankrupted themselves trying to get out before the end of the Summer session. Gnosiomandus didn't blame them. Winter was hard in this place. Damned hard. He wondered just how steep a price Dunbar would set once he knew what was at stake.

“Good. You can have the money delivered tonight, after dinner. So. What's this all about then?” Dunbar scratched his left flank. His eyes were dark and very, very intent on Gnosiomandus.

“I have these letters...”

Comments · 2

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  • Ross Tarran said...

    More!

    • Posted 4 years ago
  • james garrison said...

    Hi! I've been side-lined with some health issues, but will be back soon - this tale will continue!

    • Posted 4 years ago