Mikael handed out the vial towards the Countess, her eye narrowing as he did so.
“It would be unwise for me to test this elixir”, the Countess firmly stated. “Perhaps it would be best if you show me the results on your friend here?”
Mikael swallowed, “Very well. Arno. Would you try this”. Mikael moved his hand towards the seasoned bard. Arno observed the brew, still bubbling in its container. He took the vial, and peered within. He noticed that the vial was still warm, the bubbles only now settling. With one swig it was gone. For a moment, nothing happened. The handmaidens moved their hands in readiness, and almost everyone in the room held their breath.
Suddenly the alchemical, biological, and magical ingredients took effect on the young bard, and Arno could feel himself change. The shock manifested itself as a scream which was heard in the auditorium where the party was only now being shut down by the Countess’ armed guards. Lucius and Quinley were one of the last to leave, and clearly heard Arno’s lament. The guards too heard the scream, and almost immediately, the lead guard began issuing orders. Lucius, no stranger to the military joined in and with a few authoritative phrases, joining the guards as they raced to the aid of the Countess. Quinley, taking cue from the far superior soldier, followed not far behind.
Meanwhile Arno’s fingernails stretched into claws, his teeth became razor sharp, his skin hardened and he felt alive. But something clicked in the young man’s mind – a deal was to be made here that could advantage everyone and deal with the Whispering Way in no way that he had thought of before. He had to think quick, and as he felt the changes within him start to stabalise. He knew it was time to act whilst he and his companions appeared to have the upper hand.
Meanwhile, Mikael was gobsmacked as his creation and kept claiming to the countess of all the benefits of what the elixir could bring. The handmaidens begun stepping towards the Countess in order to protect her, and the Countess herself stepped backward.
Arno dropped to his knees, stretched out his clawed arms, and held his head downward. He paused for a moment, mainly for effect, and then spoke.
“My lady”, the man growled, “I give fealty to you. I am now your humble servant. Do with me as you wish”.
Mikael was not sure what he had heard, and it was clear that the Countess thought the same. The Countess spoke first, her voice slightly quivering.
“I see. And why should I trust you?”
Arno rose to his feet, and looked the Countess in the eye, all whilst attempting to hide his new-found jaws. Arno spoke for several minutes, and explained to the Countess all that they had learned about the Abbey that she had purchased, all about the witches that were in her “employ”, and all about what the witches were really doing there. Suddenly, a barrage of guards, followed closely by Lucius and Quinley barrelled into the room. Both Lucius and Quinley looked on, as dismayed as everyone else appeared to be.
“Arno, this is not exactly how I expected to see you”, was the first thing that came to Lucius’ mind and parsed his lips.
The Countess raised a hand, and the guards moved slowly from the room. Arno continued, and stated that Mikael was an expert with regards to the Sun Orchid Elixir and although the witches claimed that they would be able to duplicate the elixir, it was his belief that Mikael has the best chance to succeed. Arno pointed out that the Witches were clearly using the Countess’ hospitality, and her desperation against her.
The Countess was enraged. How dare these two witches dupe her.
“I accept your offer”, responded the Countess, “on the condition that you produce me the elixir as soon as possible, and without delay. In the meantime, I give you permission to deal with these witches. What is it that you need from me?”
Arno thought for a moment, and responded in snarling tones.
“A sample of the Sun Orchid Elixir for Mikael to continue his already bountiful research, plans to the Abbey of Sante-Lymirin where the witches are now stationed, a letter of introduction to the witches and wand of cure moderate wounds. At this stage they are clearly unaware of your intentions, and of course of our involvement. With the letter, we may be able to act as your hirelings who are checking on their progress. The rest will be up to us to handle. Is this agreeable?”
“Yes”, the countess exclaimed. “We will draw up the paperwork immediately in order to ratify this transaction”. With that, the Countess summoned her best legal representatives, and the rest of the evening was spent discussing plans, documenting the heroes’ agreement with the Countess, and allowing time for the Countess to obtain the plans to her Abbey…