"Things That Go Bump In the Night"

"Things That Go Bump In the Night"

I was sleeping, quite heavily, until a slight scraping movement near the windows jolted me awake.

I am not a paranoid person by nature, but something struck me as entirely wrong about this situation. So, with as little sound as possible, I rolled off the bed, grabbing the heavy tome I used to put myself to sleep as a weapon.

The scratching stooped for a moment, then continued. I let my eyes adjust to the darkness, and crept around the bed. I was just about to round the end when I heard a deep intake of breath, and a shadow crossed the window, to disappear behind the curtains.

It was reflex more than anything that caused me to fling the book at the curtain, aiming for a head shot on an average height individual. "You've got three seconds to reveal yourself before I scream for my guard." I began edging for the door.

I heard an "ooooofff" and then a strangled sort of wheezing, and whoever I hit slumps to the floor, falling out from behind the curtain, grasping his throat. He was a little taller than average. I assumed I got him in the windpipe. Oops.

I felt slightly dismayed, and very carefully started over to check him out, after opening the door a crack, and snagging a paperweight off my desk as a secondary weapon. He continued to wheeze. As I approached, his features, though still shadowed in the half dark, began to look vaguely familiar...

I paused, returning to the desk to light a candle, and then crept back to take a better look (paperweight still in hand, of course..). As the candelight hit his face, I let out a horrified gasp. It was Erandel Cigorwen. I dropped the paperweight and knelt next to him, one of my best friends. "Randy! Oh, Lady Bright, I'm so sorry!"

He stood slowly with my assistance, still wheezing slightly. But then he looked into my eyes and seemed to snap out of his pain. He and grasped my hand tightly in his own, looking soulfully at me.

I've known Randy since we were small children. He is heir to the oldest noble House in Glorethien. He used to dribble mud in my hair. This was NOT normal behavior for him.

"Since you are not about to expire on my floor, would you kindly explain to me what the bloody hell you are doing sneaking through my window in the middle of the night!" I admit I was a bit snappish, but even my best friend had better have a damned good explanation for sneaking into my room in the middle of the night.

"I... only wished to worship... at the altar of your unending... unending beauty... it was a beacon ... to me, shining through the... .."

I began to look for signs that he'd been drinking. "If this is some sort of practical joke you and Jero thought up, it isn't funny, Erandel." I was hoping my use of his given name would give him an impression of how annoyed ZI was, since I never called him anything but 'Randy.'

Erandel's eyes only widened in hurt shock. "Oh, no! Elaine! I *love* you!"

I decided to switch to more blunt tactic, and conjured a nice sized container of water, which I promptly dumped over his head, in hopes of snapping him out of his current state. "Erandel Cigorwen, what have you been drinking?"

He shook his head slightly, blinking a bit, as there seems to have been water in his eyes. Then he looked desperately at me for a moment, seeming to want to say something... then paused... but his eyes began to glaze slightly, and he said, "If I am drunk, it is only at the sight of you! The scent of you! ......"

I tried the water trick again, since it seemed to have some effect for a moment. Then on a hunch, I clapped a hand over his eyes. "Randy, snap out of it!" I was really starting to get scared.

It seemed to work-- until I touched him. He clasped my hand, moving it from his eyes to over his heart, and began to speak, before catching himself on a wheeze.

I pulled away from him, stepped back and doused him another time.

That seemed to do the trick. He paused, shaking his head, looking down at the floor and letting his hair drip. He very pointedly didn't look at me.

"Randy, what the hell is going on?" I conjured a towel and handed it over to him, stepping aside so that if he looked up, I wouldn't be in his direct line of sight.

"I don't know," he said hoarsely, putting the towel over his head, carefully trying not to touch me.

I retreated to my bed and sat on the edge, watching him. "Randy, why don't you try and tell me where you've been, and what you've been doing."

"I... I don't remember. I had dinner with my father, and went out to visit a tavern, because Riordan was singing there that night, and he's an excellent minstrel..."

"What happened after you left the tavern?"

"I don't... remember leaving the tavern."

I swore quietly. "Do you remeber what exactly happened at the tavern? Was there anyone odd there?"

He paused to think. "...not that I can remember. I'm sorry, Elaine."

"It's all right, Randy. I'm just as confused as you are."

He nodded, looking quite silly with a towel over his head.

"Why don't you sit down," I gestured to a chair, got up and started pacing, a bad habit I indulge in when I am at a complete loss "Maybe we should have you looked at by someone in the Sorceror's Guild..."

"Maybe so..." he replied, a little forlornly.

I watched Randy for a minute. "Well, we should probably get you to the Guild before morning."

He nodded again, still staring at the floor. "But how?"

I started gathering some clothes. "Right back out that window. Sneak into town, go to the Guild House. I"ve got a couple of favors I can call in..."

We arrived, with little difficulty, considering, at the Guildhouse. A rather sleepy porter was on duty at the main doors.

I walked up and got his attention. "I need to speak with Sorceror Greawyn. It is a bit of an emergency."

The porter grumbled slightly, not recognizing me. "It'd have to be an emergency, to wake a sorcerer up from a sound slumber." People who don't know me often tend not to take me seriously. It has much to do, I think with my being so, as Jero politely puts it, 'petite'. But once people do know me, it's a mistake they don't often make twice, unless they're blithering idiots. And I've met plenty of those in my time...

I smiled sweetly. "Tell him Elaine Maadari is here to see him."

The porter didn't precisely pale-- but I couldn't tell for sure in the dim light-- but he did wake up and bow and leave quite quickly. There are distinct advantages to being a close friend of the King.

Not much later, a tall, elegant man returned, alone. He bowed correctly to me, and said, "I am the Sorcerer Acrost. I am afriad the gentleman you requested cannot be summoned; he is out of the city. How may I be of service to House Madaari?"

I nodded politely to him. "Sorceror Acrost, I thank you for seeing us at such an unreasonable hour. I wish someone to see if my companion has been in any way ensorceled."

"All right. Let's bring him inside."

Gesturing Randy ahead of me, I followed. The Guilds of the Magi are fairly autonomous, but it's not at all uncommon for favors to be traded back and forth between the schools of magic. As well as being head of House, I am a member of the Conjurer's Guild, which actually gives me a bit more credibility with the Magi than my status as a major noble.

Acrost led us to a small study, quite elegantly appointed, and gestured for us both to have a seat.

I gave Randy a sidelong look. "Perhaps my companion can best explain most of the situation. But from my perspective, something has happened to distinctly alter his behavior, since he is not known for sneaking in my room in the middle of the night going on like a love-sick fop. I doused him with water, and that seemed to snap him out of it, as long as he doesn't look at me."

Acrost got a halting explanation from Randy much like I had heard. Then he set to work. I sat so I could watch the proceedings, waiting patienly for Acrost to complete his examination.

Acrost worked for a bit, then sat back and whistled softly. "Impressive. You're ensorceled, young man, and very complicatedly. Looks like... you had a spell placed on you over a year ago; the main lynchpin was hearing a certain melodic refrain."

My eyes narrowed. "Such as from a certain minstrel Erandel went to see this evening..."

"Hm, yes. Now. The main components of the spell are, how shall we say, a lust spell. The symptoms of physical desire are emulated in the victim."

"I'd noticed," I commented dryly. "Now, would the original caster have to be the one to use the lynchpin?" If that minstrel had had something to do with this...

"Once the lynchpin is in place, no one need ever touch the spell again. The singer may not even be aware of his part in the whole thing."

I grimaced. "Is there anyway to track the identity of the caster? I'd like to have a talk with him or her..."

Acrost looked thoughtful. "I'll give it my best shot, but at this point, I'd call this a devious but otherwise harmless prank. If anything else occurs, however..."

"I would appreciate the attempt, Sorceror Acrost, if you would. I would prefer to keep anything else from occuring." I sighed in frustration.

"Indeed, Lady." He bowed. "If the gentleman would step this way, we will see to undoing the spell.... if the lady will wait?"

"Of course," and I gave Erandel an encouraging smile, but I don't think it helped much.

After a bit, Acrost came back into the room solo, and said, "While I have a moment alone, Lady, I wish to tell you some of the specifics of the spell."

Now quite concerned, I nodded. "Please do, Sorceror Acrost."

Acrost had the grace to look slightly embarrassed. "As it happens," he said, "such a spell can't be as effective as it was without some aid. It was a lust spell, as I said; yet, to be quite honest, the effect was more like love spell-- if such a thing were possible, which it isn't. Your friend has some rather deep feelings for you. Certain effects of the spell are never going to go away, as they are anchored deeply."

I sighed. "So you're saying these feelings were there previous to the spell..." Oh, Randy...

The sorcerer nodded. "Whoever set this up knew what they were doing. I did not wish to alarm your friend-- or embarrass him-- but if this is simply a harmless prank... why base a spell on existing feelings, and thus make it practically impossible to dispell?"

"An exceedingly good question," I frowned, "and one for which I have no answer, I fear. Did you have any success in discovering the original caster?"

Acrost looked deeply regretful. "Alas no, there was no real success in that quarter. I know he is human, though," he added helpfully.

With another deep sigh, I stood.. "You have my deepest gratitude, Sorceror Acrost, for your assistance in this matter. If you should hear or learn anything more..."

"Indeed. Now, I would like to keep Erandel here for observation, for a bit... I will summon a guard to see you home."

"Thank you..." I paused. "May I see him for a moment? Randy?" "Certainly." The sorcerer bowed and retreated, and a moment later Randy walked uncertainly into the room.

"Hi, Randy." I became studioulsy interested in the floor for a moment. "Is there anything you want me to pass along to your father?" Of course, now that he was standing there, I was not at all sure what to say.

He shrugged slightly. "I'll be along home shortly, to tell him what needs telling."

"Right." I suddenly sighs. He deserved better behavior form me than this. "Look, Randy... I... I'm sorry all this happened the way it did."

"Oh, Elaine, it's not your fault. It's not mine, either. I'm sorry you were startled out of a sound sleep." He grinned crookedly, looking a bit more like his old self. "I'll get my bearings back soon... and be as good as new. So don't you worry about me."

"Sure Randy," I smiled slightly at him. He knew damned well I would worry. "I should probably get back before any of them realize I'm gone, or Darven'll have Jero and half the guard out looking for me." As I slipped out the door, I noticed he was watching me go.