A/N: I had originally written this story for a Ravenloft websites netbook.
Disclaimer: Ravenloft and all it's supplements aren't mine. Any references to any of the characters, places and settings are solely the property of TSR, except where specified.
The house was a moderate sized, two-story house in the northern part of town. There were two small trees in front; shrubs under the windows; and no white picket fence. There were two doors in the front of the house. The door on the right side had a sign hanging over it: Muller's Furniture and Woodworking; the one on the left had the house number: 17. A light dusting of snow covered the ground. But the house was quiet, too quiet, especially for a house with two teenage boys living there.
A tall, lean man with square shoulders and wiry limbs in his later years paced nervously in the hallway of his home. He wore a tailored dark gray suit with a loose collared shirt, vest, and trousers. The only jewelry this man wore was a gold chain from his vest pocket, with a pocket watch and a fob hanging from the vest button. His thick head of hair was at one time a light brown, now more gray than brown was pulled back into a short ponytail that reached just past his shoulders. Signs of age and sadness lined his clean-shaven face; he had bushy muttonchop sideburns. He had a well-defined chin and high cheekbones. His blue eyes filled with grief.
A lean, similarly dressed man about thirty sat quietly on the floor watching the older man pace. He wore two gold hoop earrings in his left ear. His thick dark brown hair, cut much shorter than the older man's, was too short for a ponytail. He had a well-groomed almost black mustache and goatee with a prominent scar on his chin evident through the goatee; his darker skin weathered with much travel. His lean well-muscled frame and rough worn hands were evidence to a life of adventure. His dark eyes, opened long ago to the world's darker side, watched the older man with compassion.
A petite girl peeked around a corner watching the men; her long blonde hair braided into a ponytail that reached her lower back. She was in her mid-teens and dressed much more modestly than the men. Her pale blue eyes ignorant of anything but a well-sheltered life held sadness at the obvious pain the men felt. Her frame was thin and shapely.
"Father, this isn't going to make it go any faster," the younger man said.
"He's all I have left of your step-mother. He can't be," his voice trailed off. He stopped and put his face in hands rough from a lifetime of hard work.
"Dr. Estevez will do everything he can. You said that."
"I know what I've been saying."
"Are you starting to have doubts in the good doctor?"
"You never liked him."
"I have never disliked the man. He's fine for normal illnesses. But this is something different. We need a specialist. Seven children have died of this unknown sickness in the past three years. And another twelve nearly died. One of those seven children was yours, Kurt only last month. And now your other son, Karl, Kurt's twin is lying in that room at death's door."
"Yes, I know. Maybe we should find someone. But who?"
"Father, there is something I should tell you. I've written…" the younger man was cut off by an opening door.
The door across from him opened and a tall, thin, pale completed man past middle age with long black hair hanging wildly past his shoulder blades stepped out. He wore a white silk shirt with a silk cravat, tight black breeches, a black vest, a black knee-length coat with large folded back cuffs and gold embroidery and tight white leggings worn up to his knees, with black, heeled buckled shoes. His black eyes that showed no emotion were wreathed with wrinkles that made him look older than his years. His long delicate, but not frail, hands carried a black bag and a small, smoky colored bottle. He had a black three-corner hat under his left arm.
"Doctor?" the older man said. "How is Karl?" He walked over to the tall man. The younger man stood; he was taller than the doctor.
"Well, Mr. Muller, Karl is still not responding to treatment. But he is no worse than last week. I gave him something to help him sleep." The doctor handed the senior Muller the small bottle. "Put two drops of this into a glass of water three times a day, with meals are best. If he wakes up and is hungry give him a dose. Otherwise, don't worry about today. I'll come back in a week to see if he responds."
"Thank you doctor," the senior Muller said, taking the bottle. The three men walked down the hall, passing the girl who stepped back into the shadows. They then walked down the stairs to the front door.
"If he gets any worse, send for me immediately."
"I will doctor." The senior Muller opened the door. He and the doctor shook hands. Then the senior Muller handed Dr. Estevez a small pouch that jingled. The sun was beginning to set.
"Have faith, Hans, all is not lost."
"Thank you Raphael."
Dr. Raphael Estevez walked out of the house and down the front walk. He passed a young man with a box walking up to the house, but seemed oblivious to him. So oblivious the young man had to move or be run into.
The young man with the box stopped before the two men at the door. "Eric Muller?"
"I'm Eric Muller," the younger man replied.
The messenger held out a book. "Would you sign for the box please, sir? By the 'X'."
Eric signed the book. The messenger handed the box to Eric and took the book back. "Thank you, Mr. Muller." The messenger walked away.
The senior Muller closed the door.
"Who is the package from?"
Eric looked at the address on the box: 'Laurie Weathermay-Foxgrove, Mordentshire, Mordent'.
"Just a lady friend of mine. We travel together sometimes."
"A lady thinks highly enough of you to send you packages? Perhaps you are not the confirmed bachelor you profess to be," the senior Muller smiled slightly.
"I should be so lucky. But we are just friends, Father."
The senior Muller put his hand on his son's shoulder. "Thank you for being here for me, Eric. I know we haven't always been close and I haven't always shown you the love a father should. But I don't know what I would have done if I had to bear any more of this alone."
"Anything I can do to help, Father." He pulled the box close to him.
"I know you never liked your step-mother."
"You loved her deeply, Father. That I never doubted."
"Although I never treated your mother badly or abused her, I do realize I didn't show her the love and affection she deserved. Know doubt due to Lamordian prejudices. I did love her though. Then when I met your step-mother, and I showed her the love and affection I should have showed your mother, I'm sure that put a rift between you and your brothers." The senior Muller looked at the small bottle in his hand. "You should see what your lady friend is sending you. And I should see to this."
Eric hugged his father.
"I love you Eric."
"I love you too father." Then Eric walked down the hall toward the back of the house the box under his arm.
The senior Muller walked over to the girl who had followed them downstairs. "Did you hear what Dr. Estevez said about Karl's medicine, Olga?"
"Yes, sir," the teenage girl said.
He held out the small bottle. "Can you handle it?"
"Yes, sir," Olga took the bottle.
"I'll be in the workshop." He turned and walked toward the side of the house the furniture shop was in.
Eric closed the guest room's door and locked it. He walked over to the desk, lit the oil lamp and opened the box. Inside a letter rested on top of packing material. He took the letter and set it on the desk and sorted through the paper to find a syringe, a scalpel and twelve glass vials. He picked up the letter and read it.
My Dear Eric,
I am very concerned with the events you have written about. I believe your brothers and the other children are the victims of foul play; and your brothers to be in terrible danger. The symptoms you describe: headache, fatigue, dizziness, loss of appetite with nausea, stomach cramps and diarrhea, blurred vision associated with excessive tearing, contracted pupils of the eye, excessive sweating and salivation, rippling of surface muscles just under the skin; resemble more of poisoning than a sickness. Moderate symptoms to watch for: unable to walk, often complains of chest discomfort and tightness, exhibits marked constriction of the pupils (pinpoint pupils), exhibits muscle twitching, involuntary urination and bowel movement, and hair loss. Severe symptoms: incontinence, unconsciousness, and seizures. If poisoning continues death is inevitable. I will come as quickly as I can with a doctor friend who is an expert in these matters. We should follow this package by a few days.
If the worst should happen before we get there, take samples. Needed will be a sample of your brother's hair with the root intact, blood, skin, fingernails and any medications they are taking. Also, take a detailed description of the body, meaning anything that seems out of sorts; sores, rashes, bruises, skin discoloration, etc; other than the symptoms you've already described.
Be discrete and tell no one, not even your father. We do not wish to tip our hand to the culprit(s). Below are instructions on taking the samples. Be careful, Eric. If those behind these events discover you suspect, your life could be in danger.
Eric set the letter down. He opened a box on the desk and took a cigar out. He lifted the globe on the lamp and lit the cigar. Then he took the letter and lit it from the lamp. He watched it burn until he could barely hold it; then put it in the ashtray. He watched until there was nothing left but ashes. He removed the packing material. Then he pulled a valise from under the bed. He opened the valise; it had different sized padded compartments inside, most empty. He put the box contents inside. He closed the valise, locked the latch and replaced it under his bed putting the key into his vest pocket. He put the packing materials back into the box and put it under the bed next to the valise. He put out the cigar making sure to crush the letters' ashes, blew out the lamp and left the room.
He walked noiselessly through the silent, darkening house. He lit the sconces on the walls as he passed them. He stopped at his brother's door and listened. The room was silent; he entered. He was surprised to see Olga sitting by the bed with a handkerchief in her hand. She looked up when Eric entered the room. Tears filled her eyes.
"Hello, sir," she said. She quickly dried her eyes. He pretended not to notice.
"How is he Olga?"
He walked over to the bed and stood next to Olga, placing a hand on her shoulder.
"I got here after Kurt died. Tell me, what happened?"
"Dr. Estevez was here when he died, giving them their physical. He let us look at Kurt but never touch him. He took Kurt's body with him when he left. He said he didn't want the body to bring infection on anyone else in the household. Something about dead bodies carrying diseases. I don't understand."
"Really," Eric said suspiciously. "When did my father hire you?"
"He didn't hire me. I asked to help just after your brothers took ill."
"You're not being paid to be their nurse?"
"I'm not a nurse. I'm just helping out. And I am getting room and board."
"I wanted to help them. We're friends. Plus my mother's gone and my father is drunk most times and isn't particularly kind."
"I see. When did my brother's first become ill?"
"About six months ago. Why do you ask?"
"Curious. How old were the children that took ill?"
"Between 10 and 15."
"Did you get sick?"
"Weren't you afraid you would get sick being so close to them?"
"It didn't matter, still doesn't."
Eric smiled. "The ones that got better, did they get this bad?"
"I don't think so. I believe the doctor said they responded to the treatments before they got this bad."
"I notice Karl's hair is thinning. When did he start losing it?"
"How can you tell that?"
"Something common among the Muller's is a thick head of hair, even unto old age."
"About a month ago."
"Did Kurt lose his hair too?"
"How long before he died?"
"A month, maybe two."
"Tell me about the children?"
"What do you mean?"
"Who were they? Were they friends? Were they wealthy? Did they play together?"
"Well, the only wealthy family to be stricken was the Stolts'. One of their daughters, I believe she was one of the first. I don't believe all the children played together. Some did."
"Who were the children?"
"Well, ah, the Schneider' girls I think were the first to get sick. Lucy Schneider was the first to die, about a month later Lilly died. I think the Stolts girl got sick next. The Farrell boys were next. They both died. The Turner girl was next; then the Mier boy. I think the Edwards boy was next, the Steinware girls. They both died. Then the Klaus boy; then there was," Eric interrupted her.
"Schneider girls, Farrell boys, Steinware girls? Siblings? Any other siblings get sick?"
"I think two of the Edwards children got sick, but the girl didn't get sick until recently. There were two other siblings that got sick."
"How old were these siblings?"
"Wow, let me see. I think the Edwards boy is 10 and the girl 15. One of the Heimrich boys is 13 the other 14. The Schneider girls were 12. The Farrell boys were 13. And the Steinware girls were 11."
"And Kurt and Karl were, are 14. Twins? Schneider, Farrell and Steinware were twins?"
"Like Kurt and Karl. What did Dr. Estevez have to say about that?"
"He said because they were so close, so much alike that it was very likely they would have the same results."
"And he took all the bodies."
"Have they been buried in the cemetery?"
"No, I believe he cremated them."
"Yes, to prevent the spread of disease. Something like that."
"Thank you Olga. You've been most helpful."
"You're welcome, sir."
"Which of my brothers holds your heart?"
"And was, is it returned?"
She smiled at him, embarrassed. "Kurt, and yes it was."
"Why don't you call me Eric."
"If you'd like."
"Did my father know?"
"Doubtful. He seemed oblivious to much of their activities. I notice your skin is darker than Kurt and Karl's."
"My mother was Vistani."
"What happened to her?"
"Tuberculosis, also called Consumption, when I was four. Have you given Karl his medicine yet?"
"No he hasn't woken up."
"Did Kurt have the same medicine?"
"I don't know." She picked the smoky colored bottle up off the nightstand and looked at it. "The bottle isn't labeled, neither was Kurt's. The doctor took Kurt's last bottle of medicine when he took his body. I think some of Kurt's older medicines are still in his room, though."
"They had separate rooms?"
"Yes. When Kurt got sick, the doctor thought it a good idea to keep them separated to try to prevent Karl from getting sick, too."
"It didn't help."
"No, it didn't. Your father put Kurt in here about a week before you came home."
"Which room was his?"
"The next room. You and your brother's weren't close were you?"
"No. Can I see the bottle?" He held his hand out. She handed it to him. He opened the bottle and smelled it's contents, it was odorless "What color is the medicine? And did Kurt or Karl mention a flavor when they took it?"
"They were all clear, and they said it tasted nasty."
Eric put his finger over the bottles mouth and turned it upside down; then righted it. He felt the consistency of the liquid; then he tasted it. "They were right, it's nasty."
"Was that wise?"
"It's medicine, it shouldn't hurt me. Mind if I go look in Kurt's room?"
"I don't care. Your father hasn't let the maid clean in there since he was moved."
"I'm surprised the doctor didn't say to burn the linen. If the body has diseases, the sheets could have them also. Thanks, Olga. Please don't tell my father I asked all this, all right? He doesn't need to be bothered."
Eric left the room and went to the next room. He opened the door and looked inside. There was a lamp on the nightstand. He lit a match and closed the door; he walked to the nightstand and lit the lamp. He opened the drawer of the nightstand. There were four small smoky colored bottles. He picked them up one at a time and inspected them. The contents were all the same; they looked, felt, smelled, and tasted the same. He put them in his pockets and shut the drawer. Then he looked at the bed. He noticed hair on the pillow. He pulled the covers back and picked up the lamp. He examined the covers. He didn't notice anything, except a slightly yellow spot where Kurt probably wet the bed. Eric was surprised it didn't smell. He put the covers back where he found them, picked up the hair, and put the lamp back on the table. He blew out the lamp and walked slowly and carefully to the door. He listened at the door. Then opened the door slowly, and stepped into the hallway. He closed the door behind him and went back downstairs to the guest room.
Inside he locked the door then walked to the desk. He set the hair on the desk and lit the lamp. He pulled the bottles from his pockets and put them on the desk next to the hair. Then he pulled the valise from under his bed, unlocked it, pulled a vial out, and put the hair in it. He put the vial back into the valise, then put the medicines into empty slots, closed the valise, locked it, and put it back under the bed. He walked to the water closet with the lamp and looked at his tongue in the mirror. It looked a little irritated where he tasted the medicines. He took out his tooth powder and toothbrush and brushed his mouth, several times. Then he dropped the toothbrush into the garbage can. He walked back to the desk and got a cigar from the box. He lit it from the lamp and sat on the bed, waiting to be called to dinner.
Eric felt ill all evening, and his tongue was irritated as well. He tried not to let Olga notice. Not that she spent much time outside of Karl's bedroom. Eric and the senior Muller sat quietly at the large dinner table.
"Do you feel all right, Eric? You seem to have no appetite."
Eric hesitated. "It's just the package I received from my friend."
"What could be wrong about a package?"
"There was no letter with it. And she always sends one."
"What did she send you? Maybe no letter was required?"
"She sent some supplies for a," Eric hesitated. "We were on a mission of sorts when I heard about Kurt and Karl, one with a rather nasty vampire. We used some of my supplies from my alchemy kit. Since she was the one who, uh-m, invited me to accompany her, I guess she felt obligated to replenish my kit. She usually does that anyway. But she still sends a letter with the materials. I'm just worried."
"What sort of lady would go hunting vampires? Not that I believe in vampires."
"She's the kind of lady who has, or rather had, Rudolph van Richten as her uncle. Though you've probably never heard of him."
"Yes, I've heard of him. He was some kind of a monster hunter wasn't he? Dr. Estevez has several of his books. When the children started taking ill, he consulted them. Although no creatures' victims seemed to exhibit these exact symptoms, he still had us search about the area for any signs of foul creatures."
"Dr. Estevez isn't from Lamordia is he?"
"No. I think he said he's from Borca. And you say your friend is that van Richten's niece?"
"Yes, adopted rather than blood. Dr. van Richten and their uncle George Weathermay were quite close, even hunted together. He was around so much he was like an uncle to them. When he died they took up his mantle."
"She and her sister, Laurie and Gennifer Weathermay-Foxgrove. They tend to hunt and investigate together. They called on me to help them several times."
"Do you think there might be a problem at home? Where is their home, by the way?"
"Mordent. And possibly, but more likely they're about to go on an investigation of sorts and she didn't want to take me away from my family in this dire hour."
"You do get paid for your services, don't you? You do have to make your living. Especially since you don't care to live at home any longer, and take up my mantle."
"I know woodworking and how to make furniture, father, and I worked in your shop until I was 22. And you and Karl need me. I'm going nowhere until Karl recovers."
"You have a great deal of confidence for having little trust in the doctor attending him."
"I trust in more things than you realize, father. Just not the same things."
"A follower of Ezra?"
"Gods do tend to grant favors to their faithful."
"You didn't answer my question."
"No father, like you, I believe in no god."
Eric awoke the following morning to a knock at the guest room door. He got out of bed and walked to the door. A middle-aged woman in a maid's uniform waited patiently for him to open the door. When he did, she smiled.
"Is Karl all right?" Eric asked.
"Oh, he's no worse than yesterday. But you have guests, Mr. Muller."
"Thank you, Greta. I'll dress and be right out. A lady and a gentleman?"
"Two ladies and a gentleman."
"Yes, sir. They're very pretty."
"I know. Tell them I'll be a few minutes. What time is it?"
"I slept so long. Why did no one wake me earlier."
"Mr. Karl and Miss Olga are the only ones awake. They said to let you sleep."
"Has he had his medicine yet?"
"I don't believe so."
"Good. Should I shave?" Eric smiled rubbing the stubble around his goatee. Greta smiled and nodded then turned to leave. He closed the door. He got dressed quickly, then went to the guest bathroom and shaved. Then he returned to his room and got his valise from under his bed. He unlocked it, got the vial with Kurt's hair and the medicines, put them on the desk, locked the valise and returned it under his bed. He got the box Laurie sent the materials in and put the vial and medicines into it using the packing materials to protect them. Then he left the guest room with the package under his arm.
He walked down the hall to the entry, where his guests were waiting.
One woman wore light brown tailored trousers favored here in Lamordia, a tight-fitting gray coat with black trim, a white ruffled shirt and black riding boots. Her dark hair hung about her shoulders. She had a holstered firearm on her right hip, and a Parthian rapier at her left. Her icy blue eyes lit up when she saw Eric. This was Laurie.
The other woman, of identical features, wore a dark blue dress with a flared pleated skirt, fashionable in Mordent. She also wore a tight-fighting dark blue coat. The high collar of her dress rising above the coats collar. Her dark hair was pulled loosely into a twist. There were no weapons visible. Her icy blue eyes showed joy at seeing Eric. This was Gennifer.
The athletic built gentleman with them was taller than the ladies, but shorter than Eric. He had dark blond hair that hung wildly past his shoulders and a clean-shaven face. Wrinkles inched their way across his face. This man, who seemed in his early 30's, wore a white silk shirt with a silk cravat, green breeches, vest, knee-length coat with large folded back cuffs, tight white leggings worn up to the knee, and black, heeled buckled shoes and he carried a three-corner hat in his hand. He had a holstered pistol on his right hip and a dagger on his left hip. He had bright green eyes that seemed to laugh when he smiled a broad toothy grin.
"Laurie, Gennifer, how are both of you?" Eric said hugging them.
"Eric, we should be asking you that?" Laurie replied.
"Oh, I'm fine, considering." He gently shoved the box into the gentleman's chest, then smiled at him. "You, Lorenz, were not what I was expecting. But you are more than welcome." The men shook hands.
"Nice to see you too, Eric," the man said.
"You're from Borca right?" Eric asked.
"Yes, but you should have known that."
"How are your brothers?" Laurie whispered.
"Karl's apparently awake this morning, but he's bed ridden, more or less. Kurt died just before I got here." He nodded to the box. "I got your package yesterday."
"I'm so sorry," Laurie said. "You didn't mention that in your letter."
"Where are you staying?"
"At an inn, hopefully," Gennifer replied. "We didn't see one when we entered town. Our horses are tied out front."
"There is only one in town. My horse is being boarded at the livery in town. Everything is within walking distance, if you don't mind walking that is. Luckily, the inn isn't that far. Just let me tell Olga and the maid I'm leaving." Eric went up the stairs two at a time. He returned shortly, then he went down the hall toward the guest rooms. He disappeared into an open door halfway down the hall. When he returned he grabbed his leather duster off the coat rack next to the door. Then he opened the door and waved his friends through.
They stepped outside into the chilly late-morning air. There was a light blanket of snow on the ground.
The three guests grabbed their horses reins and the four walked south.
"Talk to us, Eric," Laurie said. "You seemed hesitant to talk in your home."
"This is not my home. What might have been my home, if I had a good childhood would be in the south side of town. This is my father and brothers home," he said with some bitterness in his voice. Eric's three friends looked uncomfortably at each other. "I arrived a week after Kurt died. That was three weeks ago. My father hasn't been very forthcoming, neither has many of the townsfolk. All I know is from what Olga said. The doctor, a Raphael Estevez, who according to my father might be from Borca," Eric look directly at Lorenz, "was here giving my brothers their checkup. Kurt died during this checkup. Dr. Estevez took the body with him without letting anyone near it, because dead bodies have diseases. He apparently cremated the body, like with all the children who died from this mysterious disease. Apparently all the children stricken were between 10 and 15. The children seemed to be sick for several months before either getting better or dying. And those that died were all identical twins. My brothers were identical twins. Also the siblings did not necessarily die one right after the other. Kurt began loosing his hair about a month maybe two before he died. And Karl started loosing his hair about a month ago. In the box is Kurt's hair, which I got from his pillow, and four of his medicine bottles with some medicine still in them. His linen has not been changed. There was a yellow stain on his sheets. The medicine is odorless and colorless, feels a bit sticky to the touch, and tastes nasty. And I can vouch for the taste. And all the medicines taste the same including Karl's."
"Was that wise?" Lorenz asked.
"You think this medicine might be the poison?" Eric replied.
"Well, I figured it this way. If it was the poison, it took several months before anyone died from it. My brothers became ill six months ago. So I would be ok with a little taste. Besides, the doctor said to put two drops of this medicine into a glass of water three times a day. Also, I noticed an irritation to my tongue and I felt sick to my stomach all evening."
"Now that you mention it," Laurie began, "you do look a bit pale."
"Thank you for noticing." Eric smiled at Laurie, a touch of warmth to his voice.
"I was expecting a doctor or alchemical professor. You mentioned bringing a doctor friend with you, Laurie. So tell me Lorenz, what makes you such an expert in poisons?"
"It's how I made my living in Borca. I apprenticed to one of the best Court Poisoners in Borca before going on the road. It's a legitimate profession in Borca."
"But not honest," Eric smiles slyly at Lorenz.
"I guess that depends on ones point of view. Or maybe who's paying you. If the ruler of a country pays you to take out an evil rival or someone planning a coup than you're doing a service. I'm not saying it's right. But it is commonplace in my domain. Now, I don't recognize the doctor's name. Maybe if I get a look at him, I might recognize him. I don't remember this kind of thing happening back home. But then I was rather sheltered."
"So you can test this medicine and see if it's the poison?" Eric asked.
"Yes, I brought my portable lab with me." Lorenz patted the bags on his horse. "Plus I believe Gennifer has a spell or two that could help," Lorenz said pointing to her.
"Magic doesn't always work in Lamordia. Sometimes spells fail. Lamordian's do not believe in magic, unnatural creatures or forces. Lamordian's believe in science not magic, whether through sorcery, wizardry or faith. And any unnatural creature discovered is either dismissed as natural phenomena or something garnered through science. I'm not saying Gennifer's spells will fail, but they could fail. And for anyone who depends solely on their spells, might find themselves in deep trouble if they don't have something else to fall back on."
"You need not worry dear sir," Gennifer smiled playfully, "for I have other skills at my disposal."
"Plus, dear lady," Eric returned the playful smile, "I would never allow any harm to befall you if I can at all prevent it."
Gennifer giggled. Eric and Lorenz laughed also.
Laurie smiled uncomfortably. "What chivalry."
"How do you know this Olga can be trusted?" Lorenz asked. "She could have lied."
"I believe her. She was in love with Kurt."
The four friends walked through the main street. The inn was near the center of town. It was a simple two-story building that took up most of the block. There were two doors. The door near the north end of the building had the sign 'Heimrich's Rest' over the door. The door near the south end of the building had the sign 'Heimrich's Kitchen'. The next building down was the livery. They tied their horses up in front of the inn. Eric took the ladies two medium-sized bags, while Lorenz handed the box to Gennifer, who was closer, and gently removed his two large bags from his horse. They entered the building. Directly inside was the front desk, with the stairs behind it. To the right was two open double doors. Over the doorway was written 'Heimrich's Kitchen'. Inside could be seen tables and chairs and a large bar but no people.
There was a young man behind the front desk. He put on a smile and greeted them. "Good morning. May I help you," he spoke in Lamordian.
The four walked up to the desk and set their bags down next to them. "Good morning," Eric greeted. "My friends will need rooms."
"Very well, how many rooms?"
"Two," Laurie replied, in Lamordian. "My sister and I will need one and this gentleman," she waved at Lorenz, "will need the other."
"You will not be staying with us sir?" the young man said to Eric.
"No thank you," Eric replied.
"Very well, will you please sign the register?" the young man said turning a book toward Laurie and handing her a quill. She signed the register and handed the quill back to the man. Then he slid the book toward Lorenz and held out the quill. "Sir?"
Lorenz just stood there. Eric leaned over and whispered in Mordentish, "sign the register."
"Oh, sorry," Lorenz smiled embarrassed and took the quill from the man, then signed the book.
"You do not speak Lamordian sir?" the young man said in Mordentish to Lorenz.
"No, I don't," Lorenz replied in Mordentish.
When Lorenz was finished signing, the young man made a note next to Lorenz's name.
"What does that mean?" Laurie asked.
"It is our symbol for a Mordentish speaking person. So anyone attending the room will know to speak that instead of Lamordian."
"My sister does not speak Lamordian either. But she does speak Mordentish," Laurie added.
"Very well." The young man put two symbols by Laurie's name, one the same as Lorenz's.
"The other one means Lamordian?" Laurie asked.
"Yes miss," he nodded. "Between all the staff, we know ten languages of the core and dwarven."
"Including Balok?" Eric asked.
"Yes sir. We know the native languages of all the town's residents."
"Dr. Estevez is Borcan then," Eric stated.
"Yes sir. You know the doctor?" the young man asked curiously.
"Dr. Estevez is treating my brother Karl."
"Oh, I'm sorry Eric. I didn't recognize you. I'm terribly sorry about your brother Kurt. Are you staying with your father, then?"
"Thank you, Dieter. Yes, I'm staying with my father. I'm just here to comfort my family. And do anything I can to help them. How soon will the rooms be ready?"
"The rooms need to have sheets put on the beds, fill the pitchers to wash up with and towels added. I will get one of the maids to ready the rooms. It will take a few minutes. If you'd like you can wait in the restaurant and we can call you when they're ready. We can also take your bags up for you."
"Thank you that would be nice," Laurie said. "We can get lunch while we wait. I'm starved."
"So am I," Eric said, "I haven't had breakfast yet."
"I'll hang on to the box," he patted Laurie's shoulder; she still held the box, "and my two bags. There are some delicate things inside," Lorenz said.
"Very well sir," the young man said. "Would anyone be needing a bath drawn?"
"Not until this evening if that's all right," Gennifer replied.
"That will be fine. Just let whoever's at the desk know."
"What about the horses?" Eric asked.
"We can have someone take them to the livery if you'd like?" Dieter said.
"Perfect, it's the three right outside." Eric picked up one of Lorenz's bags and Lorenz took the other. "You would get the lighter of the two," Lorenz said. Eric smiled at his friend.
The four walked into the restaurant and looked around. There were only six patrons, two dwarves sat together in a back corner, two men at different places along the bar, and three women giggling quietly just inside the door.
A tall stout woman called from behind the bar, in Lamordian. "Just sit anywhere. Today's menu is on the board next to the door. Those written in white are always ready, those in pink must be prepared, and the ones marked with a star can be served as group meals."
Laurie and Eric, speaking Lamordian, moved toward a large round table with five chairs near the center of the room but not too close to the other patrons. Gennifer and Lorenz followed. Eric set the bag down on one of the chairs and stepped to the chair to its left. Laurie walked to the other side of the table and sat down. Gennifer stepped to the chair between Laurie's and Eric's. Eric pulled the chair out for her.
"Thank you, Eric," Gennifer said smiling broadly.
"Anything for you Gennifer," Eric replied, returning the broad smile. Then he sat down in the chair between Gennifer and the one with Lorenz's bag.
Lorenz put his bag down next to the chair with the bag and the remaining chair; then he sat next to Laurie.
"And the menu for today is," Eric said. He turned to look at the board with the menu. He noticed the menu was written in Lamordian, Mordentish, and Balok and written in white and pink chalk. "For those who do not speak Lamordian, 'those written in white are always ready, those in pink must be prepared, and the ones marked with a star can be served as a group meal'."
They all looked at the menu.
"Why don't we all share the roasted pork with vegetables meal?" Gennifer suggested.
They all agreed.
The woman from behind the bar came over to the table. "I overheard you speaking Mordentish. My name is Inga. Are you ready to order?"
"We'll share the roasted pork with vegetables," Eric answered.
"Very good, all meals come with a drink: red or white wine, ale or beer, coffee or tea; and the tea can be hot or cold." Gennifer and Eric got cold tea, Laurie red wine, and Lorenz wanted beer. "Are you registered here at the inn?"
"They are," Eric said, "I'm staying with my father."
"Really, and who is your father sir?"
"Oh Eric, I didn't recognize you. You probably don't remember me, but we went to school together, Inga Heimrich."
"Yes, Inga, I remember you. You were one of the few children who talked to me."
"I suppose you've returned for your brothers. I'm so sorry about Kurt."
"Thank you Inga."
"You're welcome Eric. I don't know if Dieter at the front desk told you, but since the three of you are staying here, breakfast is free and lunch is half price. And we'll just pretend you Eric are staying here too." She patted Eric on the shoulder smiling broadly.
"Thank you Inga, but I wouldn't want you to get into trouble," Eric said.
"No problem." She leaned in close and whispered. "I hear you travel the realms a great deal. Perhaps your friends are here to help you with our little problem. Some of us kept asking your father to write you, but he wouldn't. Then your brother's were stricken. If he had written sooner, perhaps Kurt," she trailed off, then cleared her throat straightening. "I'll put your order in and get your drinks." She walked to the back of the restaurant and disappeared through a swinging door.
Eric whispered, "perhaps not everyone is happy with the good doctor's work."
"I think she likes you," Laurie said.
"I think she might have when we went to school. But her father and brother, Dieter, didn't."
"Is every business in town a family run business?" Gennifer asked.
"For the most part. Sometimes women take up some aspects of their husbands business after marriage. Children usually take up their parent's work, unless they have no skill."
"What about you?" Lorenz asked.
"I'm quite handy with woodworking."
Inga returned from the back room and placed four plates with silverware on the table along with a pitcher of dark liquid with ice in it. Then she went behind the bar. She got a glass of red wine, a stein of beer, and two glasses, then put them on the table. "I'll be right back with your lunch." She disappeared through the swinging door again.
Eric picked up the pitcher and pored Gennifer a glass of tea while Gennifer handed out the plates and silverware.
"Thank you," Gennifer said smiling warmly.
"You're welcome and thank you," Eric returned the smile. Then he pored a glass for himself.
Inga came through the swinging door with a large plate of steaming food. She placed it in the center of the table with a carving knife, serving fork and spoon. "Enjoy your meal."
Eric began carving the roast, then gave everyone a thick slice and vegetables.
"Why didn't Dieter and their father like you?" Laurie asked.
"Racial prejudice. My mother was Vistani," Eric said.
Lorenz looked to the two women, who seemed not to react. "But your father married her right? So that should have made it alright."
"Should have, but didn't. She wasn't treated well from what I remember. By my father either."
"From what you remember?" Lorenz asked.
"She died when I was four, consumption."
"Did this Dr. Estevez treat her?" Gennifer asked.
"He hasn't been here that long. He wasn't here when I left and that was about eight years ago. But he was here every time I visited since. Inga," Eric called.
"Can we trust her?" Laurie asked quietly.
"We'll see," Eric said.
She walked over to the table. "Yes, Eric."
"How long has the good doctor been here in town?"
Inga leaned down. "He came to town about seven years ago, about a year after you left. Shortly after he and his wife got here the apothecary was driven out of town."
"Convenient," Lorenz said.
"Why's that?" Inga asked.
"Competition," Lorenz said, "and the only person who could tell if the doctor was doing something wrong."
"Olga said two Heimrich boys were stricken. Your brothers?"
"No, Yann's children."
Eric looked to his companions. "Yann is Inga and Dieter's older brother."
"So how many people here in town don't care for the doctor?" Lorenz asked.
"Most of the younger townsfolk, especially the children and teenagers. He and his wife are creepy. Some of the parents, too."
"I didn't know he was married," Eric said.
"She's a doctor also, and pretty much stays in the office. I think I've only ever seen her out maybe once a week. They come in here for dinner every Saturday night. The general store, butcher and market all deliver to the house. Or he gets it when he makes a call."
"Wonder why," Eric said curiously.
"You said when he makes a call. Does he make a lot of house calls?" Laurie asked.
"That's all he does with the sick children and teenagers."
"Must pull in quite a coin for the house call," Laurie said.
"He does," Inga stated, disgusted.
"Thank you Inga," Eric said smiling. Inga returned the smile and returned behind the bar. "So," Eric began. "What do we do?"
"I'll test the medicine," Lorenz said.
"Why would anyone want to do this?" Eric said. "Is it the money? If it's not him, what would someone get out of killing twins? And what would he want with the bodies?"
"Let's check out the wife," Gennifer said. "Inga?" she called.
Inga returned to the table. "Yes miss?"
"Sorry to keep bothering you," Gennifer apologized.
"It's no bother miss. Besides, if you can help us, we would be most grateful."
"Tell us about Mrs. Estevez."
"Well, let me see. She's not Borcan I know that. She can't speak Balok or at least pretends not to. She always speaks either Lamordian, without an accent, or Mordentish, with an accent. She looks Lamordian. You know, hair, eyes, features, skin tone, mannerism, clothing. I've never heard her first name."
"In other words, she's a bit of a mystery." Gennifer crunched up her nose.
"Not really much help, am I," Inga said.
"Yes, you are, Inga," Eric smiled. "If you think of anything else, let us know. And keep it under your bonnet."
"Keep what," Inga said innocently. "Just old friends getting reacquainted."
"Thank you," Eric smiled.
"Inga," Lorenz began. "Your nephew's medicine, do you know if they still have some of it lying about?"
"I don't know, it was a while now but I can check. Discretely of course."
Lorenz opened the bag setting on the floor and pulled out a small vial with a cork stopper. "Here, a small sample would be fine. Less likely anyone will notice if the bottle is still there." He looked about the room to see if anyone was looking; then slipped the vial into Inga's apron pocket.
"I'll check tonight after work. My husband and I are having dinner at their house tonight. Then I'll get back to you tomorrow morning at breakfast." She smiled and curtsied then returned to the bar.
"Maybe I got a way to meet the doctor's wife," Gennifer said.
"What," Laurie asked.
"Eric can conveniently drop Karl's medicine. It's in a bottle right." Eric nodded. "Then go to the office to get another bottle. I'll come with you," Gennifer volunteered. "See what I can pick up, so to speak."
"What will we say you are?" Eric asked.
"I'm your fiancée." Eric raised his eyebrow.
"I keep telling my father I will never marry. All of a sudden now I am. Besides he knows Laurie is the one sending me packages. I believe he thinks she likes me." Eric looked over to Laurie, hoping for a response.
"Of course I like you. We're friends." Laurie smiled innocently.
"Or will you say you're Laurie," Eric asked. Gennifer smiled mischievously. "I can still tell the difference between you. Even when you swap clothes. But we will only say that if anyone asks."
"I guess it's a plan then," Lorenz began. "Laurie and I will get to work on what we've got, and you two can check out the wife."
The four finished lunch and split up. Laurie and Lorenz went up to the rooms and set up. Laurie changed clothes and put a dress on, to look more like Gennifer. Lorenz began setting up his lab.
Eric and Gennifer went back to his father's house. Eric's father had already shut himself into his workshop with the doors locked. So they went upstairs to see Karl. He was awake eating a meal in bed. Olga was sitting in the chair next to the bed.
"You're awake," Eric said. "Good. It's nice to see you up. You look pale."
"I don't feel much like eating."
"I'd like you to meet a friend of mine," Eric turned to Gennifer. "This is my friend, Laurie Weathermay-Foxgrove. Laurie this is my brother Karl and his friend and Olga."
"It's nice to meet you both," Gennifer said.
"It's very nice to meet you Miss. You are one of Rudolph van Richten's nieces, right?"
She looked uncomfortably at Eric, who just shrugged. "Yes, I am. How do you know about me?"
"One of my friends has a sister who left Lamordia. She writes about lots of things strange and unusual. She hasn't been reachable lately. I'm not sure if I believe all the things she writes about, but they do make good stories." Karl spoke very fast with great enthusiasm. "I've only seen a few of the letters Eric writes. Whenever father gets one, he reads it and burns it without letting Kurt or I see them. And father never writes back. Once in a while we would intercept them. Since Olga's been here, she got more of them. Eric spoke about you and your sister in the last letter he wrote before coming here. He said something about fighting a vampire. Are they real?"
"Outside of this domain they are," Gennifer replied.
"Are you here to help?" Karl asked.
"If I can."
"Were you the one Eric wrote to?"
"How do you know I wrote to someone?" Eric inquired.
"Olga said. She overheard you say something about it yesterday when the doctor was with me."
"You hear more of what I say than my father does," Eric smiled at Olga.
"He has a lot on his mind right now," Olga said.
"My father has never heard anything he does not want to hear. And he does not want to hear me."
"He hasn't heard much of what Kurt and I were saying either. Or maybe Kurt would be here right now." Karl looked over to the empty bed on the other side of the room. Everyone else looked also. Karl's eyes got misty.
"May I see your medicine bottle?" Eric asked, changing the subject. He held out his hand and Olga put the bottle in his hand. He conveniently let it fall to the floor. The bottle shattered. "Oh how clumsy of me," Eric said with a complete lack of emotion. "Looks like I'll have to go get you another bottle. Laurie, will you be so kind as to come with me to the doctor's office."
"Of course Eric," Gennifer said.
"What about this?" Karl held up his full glass of water.
"I don't know about you, but I'd have a hard time drinking something that tastes that nasty without bringing it right back up."
"Perhaps we should go get the medicine. We wouldn't want Karl to be without it for too long," Gennifer said.
"Then when you come back," Karl began putting the glass back on the tray. "You can tell me about the vampire. And all the things my brother did to help you."
"I'd be delighted," Gennifer curtsied and smiled warmly.
The two left the room. Karl looked to Inga and motioned at the door. She ran to the door, opened it and listened.
When Eric and Gennifer got downstairs, the maid was waiting.
"Good afternoon, Mr. Eric," she said.
"Good afternoon, Greta," Eric greeted.
"Mr. Muller would like me to extend an invitation to your three friends for dinner tonight. He would like to meet them. Especially the ladies."
"We would be delighted," Gennifer replied, curtsying.
"Very good, dinner will be at seven. If that's all right."
"Seven will be fine," Eric said.
Greta curtsied and went down the hall toward the back of the house. Eric and Gennifer left the house.
Then a loud crash came from upstairs.
They stepped outside. The air was cold, a thick blanket of snow covered everything. Eric and Gennifer walked through town toward the doctor's office. Eric took a 5" wide, 1½" thick, 6" long leather case from his duster's inside breast pocket. It held 4 cigars. He took one out, replaced the case and smoked a cigar along the way. As they passed Heimlich's Tavern a carriage pulled up to them. "Need a lift?" They got into the carriage and told them where they wanted to go. One silver piece per ride, five silver for the day. They had just passed the Gunsmith and could see the doctor's house and office at the next corner.
"I always liked the smell of your cigars," Gennifer said.
"Your sister doesn't."
"Yes she does. She just says that to pick on you. She wouldn't want you to think she likes you too much."
"The gods forbid."
"I've seen the way you look at her. I think you like her more than you'd want her to know, also."
"And you play these little affectionate games with me. Teasing. Trying to get her jealous? Or do you maybe like me more than you're willing to admit? After all, you both have said on more than one occasion that you will not marry."
"That's more because people, especially suitors, expect women to assume a certain path in life and we chose another path. One that the social stature of our birthright does not agree with."
"Perhaps then you should look for someone who wants you just the way you are, adventurous, outgoing, outspoken, full of life, by no means boring. Someone who would not want to shackle you down to a dull, boring, lifeless, existence."
"A man who embraces our calling in life and encourages it and even accompanies us on our adventures. Someone maybe like," she paused for effect, "you." She smiled at him mischievously.
"Who would want one of those women who just sit around all day, eating chocolates, gossiping with other boring women, giggling about another woman's out of date fashion, and how that woman's husband is stepping out with a much more exciting woman, changing outfits constantly trying to find just the right dress for the occasion. Uhg!" Eric shuttered. "I'd rather be a bachelor for the rest of my life."
"Someone who wouldn't look down on you for your heritage." Eric looked uncomfortably at Gennifer. "I guess we're perfect for each other. You're looking for someone like us, and we need someone like you. Even if none of us are willing to admit it."
"Here we are," Eric changed the subject. "The good doctor's office."
They pulled up to the doctor's office. He put his cigar out on the brick road. Eric asked the carriage to wait. The building looked a lot like Eric's father's house, only smaller. The second floor was not nearly as big. The house was on one side and office on the other.
There was a sign by the door and a pull string.
Office hours: Monday-Friday, sunrise-sunset.
House calls by appointment only.
Walk-ins during office hours on a first come first serve basis;
Appointments have priority.
After hours emergencies, ring bell for entry.
No one seen Saturday's 6:30pm-7:30pm.
They walked in the door. A bell over the door rang when the door opened and closed. There was no one in the waiting room. The waiting room was simple. There was a low table in the back with small chairs around it and several toys on the table. Around the room chairs lined the walls, small tables with books on them were between every other chair. There were three doors in the room, other than the front door. One door was on the inner wall near the front, blocked by a small table and chair. The second was on the inner wall by the back of the room. The third was on the right side of the back wall close to the inner wall.
After several minutes, they heard the faint sound of a door closing. Then the door along the back wall opened. A lean, attractively built woman with wiry limbs came through the door. She was a little taller than Gennifer. She had a well-defined chin and prominent cheekbones. Her completion was ruddy as if from the cruel Lamordian winter winds. Her slate blue eyes were without emotion and her flaxen blonde hair was pinned up. She wore a plain, modest gray woolen dress with a high collar and long, tight sleeves and a tight white bonnet.
"Yes, may I help you," she said in Lamordian, with no accent.
"You must be the other Dr. Estevez," Eric said in Lamordian. "I'm Eric Muller, Hans Muller's son."
"Yes, what can I do for you? Is there a problem with Karl?" She said without emotion.
"Nothing that a new bottle of medicine wouldn't cure. I'm afraid the bottle broke."
"No problem. I'll get another bottle from the doctor's office. If you'll wait here?" She turned and walked back into the back room. She left the door open.
They moved for a better look into the room. Inside the doctor's office, they noticed a desk, a chair behind the desk, and two chairs in front of the desk, and a closed door along the back wall. There were some papers framed on the wall behind the desk.
After surveying the room, Gennifer walked over and sat down at the chair blocking the door. She pretended to look at the books on the table.
There was a clicking sound from the doctor's office and a creek of hinges. Bottles could be heard tapping against each other. Then came the creek of hinges and a clicking sound again. Shortly thereafter the woman came through the door and walked toward Eric. Gennifer stood and stepped next to Eric. Dr. Estevez handed Eric a smoky colored bottle.
"I could use to powder my nose," Gennifer whispered in Eric's ear in Mordentish.
"There you are Mr. Muller. That's ten silver pieces. Is there anything else I can help you with?"
"Is there someplace where my friend could powder her nose?" he asked. Getting his change purse out. He dug inside.
"The door in the back." She pointed to the other door along the inner wall.
Eric translated. Gennifer smiled shyly and curtsied, then walked to the door. She disappeared into the room the door closed slowly. Eric handed Dr. Estevez the money.
"If that is everything?" Dr. Estevez said.
"Yes it should be."
Dr. Estevez turned her back on Eric and left the room, closing the office door behind her. He didn't hear the sound of another door opening.
It was a simple privy under the stairs, a lit oil lamp sconce just inside the door on the wall, a high table with a pitcher and bowl, a mirror on the wall behind, and a large pot on the floor with wiping paper. Gennifer pulled a compact out of a hidden pocket and powdered her nose then replaced it and left the room.
Eric was waiting silently when Gennifer emerged from the privy. She joined him and they left the office. The bell above the door jingled as they left.
They stepped up to the carriage, told him where to go and they headed back toward Eric's father's house. "You actually did powder your nose," Eric noticed.
"You noticed." She smiled.
"I always notice."
When they got to the Muller house, he paid the carriage driver and set up for him to come back about five to take Gennifer back to the inn and again at six to bring her, Laurie and Lorenz for dinner tonight. The carriage driver tipped his pointed hat and was off.
They went inside. The house was quiet. They went up to Karl's room. Eric knocked. "Come in." Eric opened the door and found Karl sitting up in bed. Olga sat in the chair next to the bed.
"How was the doctor?" Karl asked.
"If you mean Dr. Raphael Estevez, I wouldn't know. I don't think he was there. Mrs. Dr. Estevez helped us. Quite a charming woman."
"Your sarcasm is overwhelming," Karl said. "She's about as friendly as a bear with a bad case of fleas."
They all laughed.
"Now," Karl said, with some excitement in his voice, "tell me about the vampire."
The carriage arrived for Gennifer as scheduled and returned her to the inn. Laurie was finishing her bath as she arrived. Gennifer got her bath while Laurie dried herself. After Gennifer finished, Lorenz took a cold bath then shaved. All three used the same bath water. Then they dressed for dinner at the Muller house. Laurie and Gennifer helped each other with their corsets. Both wore dresses.
Eric also took a bath and shaved, but before he could dress, Olga knocked on the door. Karl needed help with his bath, and their father wasn't available to help. Eric put pants on underneath his robe and helped Karl. Then he helped Karl dress. By this time, Olga was bathed and dressed. Eric returned downstairs and finished dressing. After he finished dressing, he went to see if Karl needed help getting downstairs. He did. Eric just picked Karl up effortlessly and carried him to the living room.
Eric, Karl and Olga sat in the living room. Karl had lost so much weight, he looked as if he was a child playing dress up in his father's clothes. The double doors to the dining room were open. Muller Senior was talking to Greta in the dining room about dinner as she set the table. The grandmother clock on the mantle chimed quarter to seven. Eric heard something outside. He got up and walked to the window. The carriage was outside and Lorenz was helping the ladies out. Eric walked to the front door and opened it. He smiled as his friends walked up to the house. The ladies looked almost identical. The only difference was the color of their dresses. One wore a dark blue dress the other wore a forest green dress. Eric watched the ladies.
When they got to the door, Eric opened his arms and hugged the ladies. He kissed both on the cheek and greeted them by name. Then he shook Lorenz's hand. And waved them into the house. Karl and Olga were on their feet. Muller Senior walked into the living room. Eric closed the door behind his friends. He grabbed a walking cane from the umbrella stand by the front door and escorted them into the living room. He handed Karl the walking cane.
"This is Laurie Weathermay-Foxgrove," he introduced them to the woman in the green dress. He smiled and winked at Laurie. "And her sister Gennifer," he smiled at Gennifer then winked at her too. "And this is Lorenz Suarez."
"Such beautiful ladies," Muller Senior kissed each of the ladies hands. "You have good taste in friends, Eric." He winked at Eric. "And Suarez?" Muller Senior asked. "You're from Borca then?"
"Yes, sir," Lorenz replied.
"Dr. Raphael Estevez is from Borca."
"That sounds like a Borcan name."
"Do you know Dr. Estevez?"
"I don't recognize the name."
"Perhaps I'll introduce you two. Maybe you know each other."
They all went to the dining room. They enjoyed a polite conversation over dinner. Karl played with his water, but did not drink it. Then they retired to the living room for drinks. Karl was particularly interested in their travels together. He enjoyed hearing the stories about them vanquishing evil. They downplayed the magical aspects. Muller Senior paid particular attention to how Eric reacted to the ladies. Everyone noticed.
"You must have a word with your brother, Eric," Muller Senior said.
"Why, Father?" Eric asked.
"I'm quite angry with him. First he breaks his medicine bottle, then he dumps his lunch tray with his glass of medicine onto the floor. I don't know what's in his head. How is he supposed to get better if he doesn't take his medicine?"
Gennifer and Eric both look at Karl.
"I'm just frustrated," Karl said. "I dumped my tray after you left for the doctor's office. Greta was not happy to clean up the mess."
"If he won't take his medicine like the doctor tells him. I'm going to have to see if the doctor has a different method of getting it in him."
"We wouldn't want to anger the doctor now would we?" Eric said to Karl. Eric winked at Karl.
"Wouldn't want that," Karl said. "Maybe if it didn't taste so bad. That stuff makes me want to vomit."
"You know very well, Karl that just because something tastes bad doesn't mean it's not good for you. And just because something tastes good doesn't mean it not bad for you."
The carriage arrived at ten to return the trio to the inn. Muller Senior invited them to dinner again tomorrow night. They accepted graciously. Eric saw them to the carriage. Eric asked if they wanted him to accompany them to the inn. They said it wasn't necessary. So they planned to meet for breakfast at the inn in the morning. Eric arranged for the carriage to pick him up. Then he wished his friends good night. Muller Senior retired to the workshop. Eric helped Karl upstairs to bed. Then he retired himself, leaving Greta with instructions to wake him early.
The next morning, Greta woke Eric like he asked. He shaved, dressed and checked on Karl before he went to wait for the carriage. When it arrived he went to the inn. There was more than an inch of snow on the ground and everyone's breath, even the horse, came in thick clouds. His friends were not in the restaurant. Dieter at the front desk said they were awake, so he went up to their rooms. He knocked on the ladies room door first.
Eric opened the door. Gennifer, in a dress, was putting a jacket on and Laurie, in pants, was slipping her boots on.
"You should be careful who you give permission to enter."
"I saw you get out of the carriage," Gennifer said. "We do have a birds eye view of the street." She pointed to the window.
Laurie, her boots on, stood and walked toward Eric. "I'll get Lorenz." She walked past him and into the hall. Eric watched her walk away. He frowned and turned to look at Gennifer.
"You can tell by the way we walk?"
"Maybe it comes from having twins for brothers."
"Maybe you just like to watch us walk."
They both laughed.
"What are you two laughing about?" Lorenz asked.
"Private joke," Eric said. "Right Laurie?" he said looking at the woman in the dress.
"I thought this was Laurie," Lorenz said pointing to the woman in the pants.
"I'm hungry," Eric said. "How 'bout some breakfast?"
"Must be nice having twins for brothers," Lorenz said.
"I know more about these twins than I do my own brothers, my father saw to that."
"Shall we?" Laurie in the dress said. She locked the door and walked downstairs.
The other three followed. They went to the restaurant. Inga was working behind the bar.
"Just sit anywhere," Inga said, smiling at the group.
They sat at a table near the front, away from the rest of the people in the restaurant. Inga came over to the table.
"Good morning, the special is written on the board. Can I get you all something to drink? Coffee and tea, either hot or cold, come with the breakfast."
They all ordered. Inga went into the kitchen to place the order. When she came out, she brought their drinks. She placed the cups on the table. Then she put her hand on Eric's shoulder.
"How is your brother today?" Inga asked.
"About the same."
"I hope he gets better soon," Inga smiled. She slipped her hand down Eric's chest to his coat pocket. Then she patted his chest. "Your food should be done by now. I'll go check."
The others looked at Eric then to Inga as she walked to the kitchen.
Eric smiled and looked at Lorenz. "I'll give it to you later."
"Give what?" Lorenz asked.
"How quickly they forget," Eric said looking at the ladies. "Have you forgotten?"
"No," Laurie said. "I remember."
"So do I," Gennifer said.
Inga brought their breakfasts and returned to behind the bar.
"So Lorenz," Eric began, "have you found out anything yet? Or is it too soon?"
"Well, I do have my portable lab set up. And I did get a preliminary look at the medicines. But I haven't found out a lot yet. They are all the same. Just different strengths."
"Are they medicines?"
"I don't think so. They don't seem to have any medicinal qualities. But I can't tell whether they are the poison or not. I need more time."
"How much more?"
"A day, if I'm lucky. Maybe two."
"Hopefully Karl has that much time. So should we tell Karl to stop taking this medicine?"
"I don't know. But I don't think it would make any difference if he didn't take it for a day or two."
"I'll tell him after breakfast. But then I don't think he took any yesterday. I didn't notice anything out of the ordinary at the doctors' office. Did you Gennifer?"
"No, but I heard something when I was in the privy. It was muffled; I couldn't tell what it was. I didn't notice any magic. But if she is Lamordian, she wouldn't believe in it, would she."
"No. You said, Dr. Estevez was at your house when Kurt died, right?" Lorenz asked.
"That's what Olga said."
"Inga," Lorenz called.
She came over to the table. "Yes sir?"
"About the kids that died," Lorenz spoke quietly. "Do you know if the good doctor was at their houses when they died? Giving them a check up, maybe?"
"I don't know. But I can find out about one of them. Mr. Farrell is at the table near the back with four other men. I can ask him."
"How can you ask that kind of a question discretely?" Gennifer asked.
"You can't," Inga said. "But I don't think he's too happy with the doctor. He got really angry with the doctor after his boys died. He did say something about not being able to greave for them. His wife was apathetic. She's since completely withdrawn. They were the Farrell's only sons. They do have a daughter, she's eleven and just started getting sick when the boys died. He wanted to run the doctor out of town. But the town elders wouldn't allow it."
"Interesting," Lorenz said, curiously. "Any other interesting things happen concerning the good doctor?"
"Nothing I can think of right now. If I think of anything, I'll let you know." The gentlemen got up to leave. "Mr. Farrell," Inga called.
One of the gentlemen came over to the table.
"Yes Inga," the man said in Lamordian. He had a frown that looked permanently etched into his brow.
"I know this is going to be a strange question," Inga said quietly. "But was Dr. Estevez at your house when your sons died?"
"Yes," he said in a low volatile voice. "Estevez was giving them both their weekly checkups when they died. Why?"
"And he took the bodies not allowing anyone to touch or get near them?" Lorenz asked.
Gennifer leaned in to Eric and whispered in Mordentish, "What are they saying?"
Mr. Farrell looked angrily at Gennifer; then began speaking in Mordentish. "Yes, he took the bodies without allowing anyone to get near them. I believe he was attending the other children when they died also. Again I ask why? Who are you people?" Mr. Farrell was getting angry.
"There is no need to get angry, Mr. Farrell," Eric speaking quietly and calmly. He stood slowly. "I'm Eric Muller, Hans Muller's son. And these are my friends, Laurie and Gennifer Weathermay-Foxgrove and Lorenz Suarez. We've come to help."
"Why haven't you come sooner?"
"I came as soon as I heard. Please, Mr. Farrell. Sit down. Inga get him a drink." Eric grabbed a chair from the next table and set it next to him for Mr. Farrell. "We're trying to keep this low key until we know more."
"Your father's a fool," he said sitting down. "He's lost one boy to this monster and he's about to lose another. And I think he lost you a long time ago with the way he, and the rest of us treated you."
"It's alright Mr. Farrell," Eric said reassuringly.
"Just because he seems the most obvious explanation, does not mean he is behind this," Lorenz suggested. "Are there any other reasons you suspect the doctor?"
"And why didn't the town elders at least investigate him?" Laurie asked.
Inga came over quickly with a stein of beer. She mouthed, "I'm sorry." Eric smiled at Inga.
"Mr. Farrell, I thought you were one of the town elders," Eric said.
Mr. Farrell seemed to calm down a bit. He took a few deep breaths then took a drink of his beer. "I'll tell you what I know. A couple months after you left, Mayor Wagner's wife was called home to Leidenheim to tend to her sick mother. When they came back, they brought the doctor's Estevez with them. Apparently they were looking for a place to practice and the Wagner's thought that we could use real doctors instead of just a simple apothecary and alchemist. I don't know if you remember him, but Mr. Dolf was an ancient man. He always griped about wanting to go home to wherever that was to spend his final days."
"Hadn't he been saying that forever?"
"Yes, ever since his wife died. The only thing he said was keeping him here was there would be no one in town to take care of the town's medicinal needs. Well, Mayor Wagner gave Dolf his long awaited opportunity and ushered him out of town. The doctors moved into Dolf's Apothecary and Alchemy shop until a new house with an office could be built. The Estevez' brought three dwarves in to put in a foundation for the house before they allowed the Wolf brothers to build. These dwarves put a large tent over the land and brought in stones and mortar. They worked for almost three months. Then one day they were done and gone, over night. Then the Wolf brothers built the house on top. By the time the house and office were built they had already bought everything to put in the house. Most of the furniture was from your father." Mr. Farrell took a deep breath.
"Anything with the doctors before the children began getting sick?"
"My boys always said they smelled funny."
"Do they live alone? Do they have any children?" Gennifer asked.
"Yes, they live alone and have no children."
"What about pets?" Gennifer asked.
"How did they smell funny?" Lorenz asked.
"I don't know. I'm not sure my boys knew. But whatever the smell, they didn't like it."
"Do they have a hospital section? Maybe for patients they need to watch closely?"
"No. No one ever stays at their house. The kids in town don't like to go to their office. They say it's creepy and they hear noises. I was an elder, until I started investigating the doctor. The mayor is really tight with the doctors. The mayor and Estevez both said it was grief from losing my boys. There is nothing new in this town. There hasn't been since the doctors came to town. And before that when your mother and father married. Things in this town change very infrequently and very slowly. We don't like change. There has been no changes to nature that we can tell. Nothing with the river, the trees, the grass, the air, the small crop of rye the Grunwald's raise, the Mier's vegetables, the fish the fishermen bring in, the Gebhart's poultry, my pigs. According to Mr. Jobl the veterinarian none of the animals have anything wrong with them. Just the children. And I've noticed only the children who can afford to go to the doctor on a regular basis are the ones that got sick. Olga who's helped watch over your brothers, for example, her father's the sail maker. Since his wife died six years ago, he's been drunk most of the time. What money he does bring in goes right to booze. So sending her to the doctors was not going to happen, especially with the prices they charge. I don't think she's gone to the doctor since her mother died. And she never got sick. As for the ones that died, only twins have died. Except of course the mayor's 14-year-old twin girls. They go to the doctor every six months for checkups and they haven't gotten sick. And when anyone says anything bad about the doctors, the mayor is the one who shuts them up. Your father is also one of the town elders who've sung the doctors praises. And even though your brothers took ill, he hasn't spoken against the doctors."
"From what Eric wrote about the children's symptoms," Lorenz began, "poisoning looks like what's making the children sick."
"But if the doctor is doing this, how does he make them sick?" Mr. Farrell asked.
"We're looking at the medicine as what's poisoning them. But if this is the case, how could he make them sick so he can give them this poison medicine?"
"Vitamins," Mr. Farrell said. "All the children who go see the doctor on a regular basis all get vitamins. They take these vitamins once a day."
"In what form are these vitamins?" Lorenz asked.
"Swallow? Not chewed."
"When they were younger they chewed them. When they got older they swallowed them."
"Did your kids ever tell you how these vitamins tasted?"
"The ones they chewed tasted like fruit. But when they turned nine the doctors gave them the kind they swallow with water. They said they tasted nasty."
"Got any?" Lorenz asked.
"Yes, I think I still have some. If not there's my daughter's."
"I'd like to see them."
"I'll get them for you."
"I'd love to get in that house," Gennifer said.
"I can't see how. Mrs. Estevez, never leaves the house," Mr. Farrell said.
Eric smiled, "Yes she does. Every Saturday evening, they come here for dinner, 6:30 to 7:30."
"Today's Saturday," Mr. Farrell said.
"Lucky us," Lorenz said. "I should be done with my tests by this afternoon, if I'm lucky. Or at least enough."
"Their going to have some kind of defenses on their house," Laurie said. "Probably the dwarven kind. I don't know any dwarves."
"I do," Mr. Farrell said. "I'll talk to them and get back to you."
"We can meet for lunch," Laurie said.
"I should be able to get something from them then," Mr. Farrell said standing to leave.
"Don't say anything to anyone else. We need to keep this as quiet as possible," Eric said.
"No problem. See you at lunch." Mr. Farrell left the restaurant.
"I'll go talk to the locksmith and see if they put any extra defenses on the house," Eric stood to leave.
"I'll go with you, again." Gennifer stood also. "Maybe we can open a shop here." She winked at Laurie.
"This circle of people in the know is getting larger and larger," Lorenz mentioned. "That's dangerous."
"We only have one more day until we can do something," Gennifer mentioned.
"We've said that before. Then the roof caves in," Eric said.
"Than maybe we should be prepared to move at a moments notice," Gennifer said. "I'll be right back." She left the room and went upstairs.
"Maybe you should change," Lorenz suggested to Laurie. "Pants would be easier to move in."
"Good idea." Laurie got up and went upstairs also.
"Maybe you should get to work, Lorenz," Eric suggested. "Tell Gennifer to make sure she has her gloves." Eric took a vial from his pocket and handed it to Lorenz. "From Inga."
Lorenz nodded then also went upstairs.
Eric finished his coffee and paid for his breakfast. Then he went into the lobby and waited for Gennifer. Dieter was at the front desk.
"Dieter," Eric began, "Heimrich, and Heimlich. Your two families are related right?"
"Yes, when my great-grandfather died without naming his heir, my grandfather and his brother had a falling out, over the family business, the inn. So the town elders were consulted and they awarded the inn to my grandfather. My uncle married the only daughter to the tavern owner and got the tavern. They rarely speak though. My father and cousin are on better terms. At least they speak to each other."
"Who did your sister marry?"
"One of the Gebhart boys. He's a cook in the restaurant. They supply all our poultry."
"So I guess Mr. Gebhart isn't inheriting the family farm or the butchery then," Eric observed.
"No, he just hates farming. She always liked you though. Still does I think."
"With the way the town acted toward me, marrying anyone here was highly unlikely." The two men smiled. Eric looked up and saw Gennifer coming down the stairs. She wore a larger coat, one that could hide more things beneath. He leaned in close to Dieter. "As for now, my heart is already taken," Eric whispered. He stood upright when Gennifer reached him. "Ready?" he asked her.
"I believe I have everything I need."
"Good. Thank you, Dieter. We'll see you at lunch."
"I'll make sure there's a table for four."
"We might have Mr. Farrell joining us," Eric informed.
"Not a problem, Eric. Ma'am," Dieter nodded to Gennifer and smiled.
"Should we get our horses?" Gennifer asked.
"No, we'll just rent a carriage for the day." They stepped outside. Then he whispered, "less attention that way."
They walked to the Steinware livery stables and rented a carriage for the day. First they went back to his father's house. He ran upstairs and talked to Karl about his medicine. Then he and Gennifer went to his room. He got two worn, brown, soft leather bags and an equally worn brown backpack from the wardrobe. He removed several things from the bags then put the bags back into the wardrobe. He removed his duster and the suit jacket then put a pistol shoulder holster on, then put the pistol in the holster. The holster hung under his left arm. He changed his belt, putting on one with a dagger sheath in the back. Gennifer hung up the suit jacket in his wardrobe and got his leather removable caplet for the duster and put it on the duster. Then she helped him put the duster on. He put his bullet pouch in the duster's outside right hip pocket and a 5" wide, 1½" thick, 6" long leather cases that looked like a cigar case into his outside left hip pocket. Then he put a foot long twine of fuse into the pocket with the leather case. He got two 1" wide, 1½" thick, 6" long leather cases and slipped one into each of his boots. Then he put matches into his breast pocket. He picked up an 8½" long, 5½" wide, and 3" thick leather case and slipped it into an inner pocket. Then he tied his whip onto his belt by his right hip with a bit of leather.
"Am I missing anything?" he asked.
"For work, doubtful. But you might want to fill your cigar case."
"Good point." He got his cigar case from his duster's inside breast pocket, opened it and got two cigars from the box on the desk and put them into the case. Then he took another cigar from the box and lit it from the desk lamp. "Shall we go?" He held his arm out for her.
"Lets," she put her arm in his and they left the room locking the door.
They went outside to the waiting carriage and went to Richter's Locksmith. He put his cigar out before going inside.
They walked into the office. It had samples of every type of lock they sell on racks along the walls. Behind a counter along the back wall stood a man with wire rimmed glasses.
"Good morning, can I help you?" the man said in Lamordian.
"I'm Eric Muller, you probably know my father, Hans Muller. Do you speak Mordentish?" he said in Lamordian.
"Yes, Mr. Muller. How can I help you?" he spoke Mordentish.
"This is a friend of mine. She and her sister have a shop in Mordentshire and were thinking about opening one here. What kind of locks and other building defenses do you have?"
The gentleman showed her all the locks for buildings. Eric paid attention.
"I suppose everyone in town uses these kinds of locks," Gennifer mention.
"Yes, although some people have more than one lock, depending on the business. What kind of business do you run in Mordentshire? Is it something valuable, like jewelry? We don't have any jewelers here in town."
"But then most people in Lamordia do not wear jewelry," Eric volunteered.
"True Mr. Muller."
"It's an herbalist shop. Herbs and spices mostly for cooking, although some can be used for medicinal purposes."
"Well we do have a doctor here in town, Miss. But then I'm sure Mr. Muller has told you about that, since his brothers are," he caught himself, "brother is ill."
"Yes I know. I'm no doctor, nor is my sister. We just provide the herbs and mix them if required. Provided we have a recipe. So we wouldn't be stepping on the doctors toes."
"I see. Well the doctor did purchase several of our best door locks and several padlocks when he built his house and office."
"I doubt there are many on the old apothecary's shop," Eric commented.
"Well, the shop does have a door lock on the outer doors. They were the best for the time. But that was years ago, when old Dolf had the place. Were you planning on building or buying? Old Dolf's place is still available. And it does have living space. And it would be much cheaper to buy that place and fix it up, with new locks than build a new place. Unless you're planning on putting in special modifications. And old Dolf's place does have a cellar."
"Cellar," Gennifer said, acting interested. "Cellars are good for growing and storing some herbs."
"The doctor liked the cellar. Only it wasn't fortified."
"Fortified? I'm not sure of any herb that would need to have fortification to grow, or protect. But then I'm no doctor."
"That's why he brought those nasty dwarves in to build a fortified cellar."
"I suppose he would have his medicines," Eric said. "They would have all kinds of uses, some good, some bad. He would need to protect them. Probably grows some of his own."
"I know nothing of that. But I do know the Wolf brothers were really angry about bringing those dwarves in. After all, they could have made the cellar also. But since they did get to build the house and office on top, they weren't too upset."
"Who would we see about the apothecary shop?" Gennifer asked.
"Wagner's Land office is next door to your father's house," he said to Eric.
"That's right, I forgot it was there. The mayor's son."
"Thank you," Gennifer said. "You were most helpful."
"You are quite welcome."
They left the locksmith. They checked the time.
"Let's go back and see how Lorenz is doing," Gennifer said. "Let them know what we found."
"Sounds good." They told the carriage driver to return to the inn.
When they got to the inn, they noticed Lorenz and Laurie in the restaurant with Mr. Farrell and a dwarf. They went into the restaurant to join them.
"Well, I think we're missing something," Eric said walking up to the table. Eric thought he recognized the dwarf.
"Not really," Laurie said. "They just got here."
Mr. Farrell stood. "This is Jarne Stonebreaker." He introduced Eric and Gennifer. "He was telling me how his brother and two sisters disappeared about 8 years ago."
Eric held the chair for Gennifer. "Really," Eric said sitting down. "Weren't you here in the restaurant yesterday? You were sitting in the back of the room with another dwarf."
"Yes. That was my nephew, Laamon. His father, my brother Leemon is missing."
"Where is he? Your nephew I mean." Gennifer asked.
"Upstairs in our room. He has less patience than I do. He'll accompany me on these wild goose chases but he lets me chase down the leads before he gets too worked up. Our family is from Darkon. We go all over the core building stone fortifications. We were contracted to build a fortified building for someone in Leidenheim. So Leemon and one of our sisters, Tanta, went to work out the details. They settled the negotiations then sent for stone about a month after they left. I shipped the stone with another of our sisters, Britla. They never came back and I haven't heard from them since. I've been going back and forth between Darkon and Leidenheim to try and find out what happened. The people in Leidenheim haven't been very helpful. But finally someone in Leidenheim put me in touch with Mayor Wagner. He was not helpful either. And the people here are not very friendly. I bumped into Mr. Farrell by chance when we came to town this time. Then this morning he came to me and told me about these doctors and their dwarven built stone basement and I told him about my missing family. If I could get a look at this basement, I would know if my family did it. We have a unique style of building."
"I told Jarne that although I do remember the three dwarves I couldn't tell him anything about them. Except that they were men, so they weren't his family."
"Dwarven women also have beards, Mr. Farrell," Eric commented. "And to someone who doesn't have much contact with dwarves, you probably wouldn't be able to tell the difference."
"I see," Mr. Farrell said interested. "Well then, I'm no help there. I also told him that the doctors are suspect in a quiet investigation concerning the deaths of our children," Mr. Farrell continued. "And that we need to not go to the doctor just yet. He's agreed to help."
"Does your family put any security features into these fortifications when you build them?" Lorenz asked.
"Of course, that's part of what people want when they fortify buildings."
"And you could disable them," Laurie asked.
"Mr. Farrell," Gennifer began, "Did you get your son's vitamins?"
"Yes, I dropped them off with Lorenz before I went to talk to Jarne. I couldn't find any of the chewable ones though."
"I got a preliminary look at them. They look the same as the medicines, only in tablet form. And I did get enough done with the medicines, they are poison."
"How can anyone make a poison that is in tablet form and liquid?" Laurie asked.
"Tools of the trade, my dear Laurie. Tools of the trade." Lorenz smiled. "Harder to tell their poisons then."
"Now we have to get a look at their house," Laurie said.
"I need to get to Karl," Eric stood. "I'll be back."
"Wait," Mr. Farrell said standing. "I'll go with you."
"Wait," Lorenz said standing. He handed them two flasks. "This should neutralize the poison. There's two doses in each flask."
Mr. Farrell took the flasks and put them in his pocket then the two men left quickly.
"Jarne, maybe you should get some things ready for tonight," Lorenz said. "I'll go get my things ready also." He got up and left the room.
"Tonight? What's tonight?" Jarne asked.
"We act," Laurie said. "Inga," she called. Gennifer and Jarne left the room.
Inga came over from behind the bar. "Yes miss."
"Can you get a lunch for six ready and have someone bring it up to our room for us?" Laurie asked.
"Something quick." Laurie left the room also.
Eric and Mr. Farrell went to Eric's father's house. Tiny snowflakes fell from the sky, adding to the blanket that covered the ground.
"Have the carriage turned around by the time we get back out," Mr. Farrell ordered the driver.
Greta was dusting the living room when they arrived.
Eric asked, "Where's my father?"
"In the workshop like always."
"Good, here's the key to my room." He dug it out of his pocket and handed it to her. "Get my bags from the wardrobe and the valise from under the bed along with my cigars on the desk and take them to the carriage outside. Then watch for my father. If he comes out before we leave, distract him. Keep him in the back of the house."
"Yes, Mr. Eric." She took the key and disappeared down the hall.
Eric and Mr. Farrell ran upstairs. Karl was eating lunch in bed and Olga was sitting beside him in a chair.
"Olga, get Karl's things quickly. Just dump them in a pillowcase or wrap them in the sheet, anything handy."
"No time. We'll talk on the way. And forget the medicine." Eric grabbed the glass of water from Karl's tray and dumped it into the washing pitcher on the dresser. Then he grabbed the medicine and did the same. Then he went to the window at the back of the house, opened it and dumped it outside.
Olga scurried around the room getting his clothes and shoes and other things from the wardrobe and dresser and dumped everything quickly into the sheet from Kurt's bed. Then she grabbed his coat.
"What's his coat doing up here? Shouldn't it be downstairs?" Eric asked amazed.
"Your brother hasn't left the house in four months. Your father put it up here."
"Is your coat downstairs?" Eric took the coat from her.
"Yes, Eric. In my room."
"Go get it and get your things too, quickly. Then meet us outside. There's a carriage waiting. And try to avoid my father. If you see him, lie."
Olga tied the sheets corners together then darted out of the room, bundle in hand. Eric stripped the covers off Karl. Karl had socks on. "Good." He helped put Karl's coat on, then wrapped the blanket around him and picked him up effortlessly. The three left the room, Mr. Farrell first. They raced downstairs. Greta was in the hallway. Eric turned to her.
"Your things are in the carriage, Mr. Eric."
"Good. If my father asks, you know nothing. You never saw us. Got it?"
"Yes Mr. Eric," she said puzzled.
"You're sure he's still in his workshop?"
"Yes Mr. Eric?"
"Greta, we will not be here for dinner."
Mr. Farrell looked out the window and studied the street for a minute. Then he went outside and as casually as possible looked around the block, then waved Eric on. Olga ran quietly down the hallway, two bundles in hand. Her coat was on. Then the three left the house going as quickly and carefully as possible down the snow covered walk and got into the carriage.
"Take us to my farm," he told the driver. "Take the long way by fisherman's village, avoiding the doctor's office." He handed the man five gold pieces. "And if anyone asks, you saw nothing."
Mr. Farrell handed Karl one of the flasks Lorenz gave them. "Drink half of this."
He drank half the contents of the flask. Color came back to his face almost before he finished drinking.
"You look better," Eric said. "Now how do you feel?"
"Much better. I don't feel sick any longer. But I still feel weak and hungry."
"Then it is poison," Mr. Farrell stated taking the flask back.
"Is my father in on this?" Karl asked.
"Doing nothing is just as guilty as giving it to you," Mr. Farrell stated. "He could have written your brother much sooner than he did."
"My father didn't write me," Eric said.
"What?" Mr. Farrell said shocked. "Then how did you find out?"
"We did," Karl said. "Kurt and I. Olga intercepted one of the letters Eric wrote us. Eric always wrote, even though my father never replied. That's how we knew where Eric was. So we wrote him and Olga slipped it out without our father knowing. He refused to write. Said the Estevez' were all we needed."
"Fool," Mr. Farrell said.
They rode the rest of the way to the Farrell farm in silence. When they got there, Mr. Farrell led the way. Eric carried Karl inside, Olga carried the two bundles. Mrs. Farrell sat quietly starring at the fireplace, while the group went upstairs. Mr. Farrell showed them to a room. Eric put Karl in bed. Olga dropped the bundles on the floor.
Mr. Farrell left the room and walked across the hallway to his daughter's room. He grabbed a bottle of pills off her nightstand and put it in his pocket.
"Pappa?" she said. She was very pale and looked sick.
"You won't be taking these any longer." He handed his daughter the flask Karl drank from. "Drink this."
She drank the remainder of the flask. Nothing happened. She was still pale and sick.
Eric stood in the doorway. "Give her the other flask."
Mr. Farrell handed her the other flask. "Drink half."
She drank half the contents of the flask. The color returned to her face.
"I feel much better, Pappa. And I'm hungry."
"Get dressed sweetheart," he said gently. "And go downstairs and make something for you, Karl and Olga to eat."
They left the room while she dressed.
"Why did it take two doses for her? She wasn't as sick as Karl."
"Magic," Eric said.
"Lorenz gave us two flasks. Maybe there were two different remedies."
"So we're going to move on the doctors tonight?" Mr. Farrell said.
"You're not going anywhere."
"Yes I am. I want to help. Especially now that I know I've been right all along."
"Very well then. You can be at the restaurant tonight. If we aren't back by the time they leave, make sure they stay longer. Even if you have to start a fight."
Eric went back to the inn. Dieter was at the front desk.
"The ladies said you are to go to Mr. Suarez' room. There's a lunch waiting."
"Thank you, Dieter."
Eric smiled as he passed Dieter and went upstairs. He knocked softly on Lorenz' door.
"Come in," one of the ladies said.
Eric opened the door. Lorenz was working over the dresser, filled with test tubes. The ladies sat on the bed eating. There was a large platter on the bed with what looked like the roast pork with vegetables they had yesterday. There was also a round table with four chairs around it.
"The neutralize poison potions in the flasks worked. Both Karl and Mr. Farrell's daughter recovered immediately. Well, she needed 2 doses. The first one didn't work."
"The medicine is poison," Lorenz said. "And the vitamin pills seem to be the same. I haven't finished with all the tests on them."
"So one or both of the doctors are poisoning the children. Why?" Eric asked.
"And what are they doing with the bodies once they've taken them?" Laurie said.
"I guess we'll find that out in a few hours," Eric said walking over to the bed. He grabbed a chair from the table and sat down.
"This is probably a new poison he's come up with and he's using the children as test subjects."
"That's dangerous," Gennifer said. "If anyone would find out, he'd be in big trouble."
"That's probably something he'd plan for," Lorenz said.
"When he was at the house giving Karl his weekly checkup, he did have his doctor's bag with him."
"All he would really need is a list of ingredients and their amounts."
"I could use some more ice tea," Gennifer said standing. She walked to the door and left the room.
Eric took a plate and filled it with food. There was a pitcher of ice tea on the dresser, more than half full. Laurie got up from the bed and filled a glass and handed it to Eric. He thanked her. Then she sat back down on the bed.
"Has he eaten yet," Eric said pointing to Lorenz.
After a few minutes Gennifer entered the room with another pitcher of tea.
"Inga said, whenever the doctors come for dinner, they both have their doctor's bags with them. Hers is bigger than his. They also own a carriage and two horses that the livery brings them every morning and picks up every night. She said it has a large chest built into the back of it. She said she's never seen it opened."
"Convenient," Lorenz said.
After another hour of working Lorenz finally took a break to eat. He ate quickly, drank some tea and got back to work. Eric took the tray and the empty pitcher of ice tea downstairs to the restaurant. He returned to the room.
After another hour of Lorenz working and Eric, Gennifer and Laurie talking quietly, someone knocked on the door. Eric looked at his pocket watch.
"It's too early for Mr. Farrell." He got up and went to the door. "Who is it?"
"Jarne," was the reply.
Eric opened the door. Jarne stood outside. He had on a strange looking leather suit covered with dozens of various pouches and tool holders. There were tools hanging off the suit; several different size hammers, axes, a hand-sized pickaxe, other smaller wire-like tools that resembled thieves picks, files, and scissors. There were glass vials with cork stoppers, sticks of dynamite, fuse. And a huge battle-axe strapped to his back. Eric smiled broadly and ushered him inside quickly.
"I'm ready to go," he said enthusiastically.
Gennifer snickered. "So we see."
"You look a bit obvious," Laurie said.
"What do you mean? I have everything here I'll need to get into a fortified stone structure, especially one of my families designs. There's some acid, dynamite, fuse," Eric put up his hand to stop him.
"Although the acid could prove useful. We want to get inside and look around, not blow the building up. We want to find evidence that they're doing something wrong and bring it back in one piece." Eric pulled the leather cigar-like case from the outside pocket of his duster. He opened it and pulled out a vial of black powder. "I have these nice little gunpowder vials, and fuse. I've found they open doors very nicely without bringing down the wall along with it."
"Why do you carry something like that?" Jarne asked.
"I explore tombs a lot. Tombs which could have various undead things inside. I also use some fine tools like you have on your harness as well. Tombs tend to have traps of various kinds. Sometimes all that's needed to avoid or defuse a trap is a lock pick and other times a little blast is needed."
"Oh," Jarne seemed disappointed.
"We don't want to draw too much attention before we get there," Laurie said. "We're going to at least look like we're not up to something when we leave the inn."
"Oh," Jarne frowned.
"Well," Lorenz said trying not to laugh, "perhaps if you had a large coat. Your outfit would be all right beneath it. And I don't think we're going to go into battle. So you might want to leave the battle-axe behind." Lorenz hesitated.
"But what if we get into one?" Jarne argued.
"You have several other axes," Gennifer volunteered. "I'm sure that in a town setting like this, in a doctor's house, they will be more than," she hesitated, "we'll need."
"Plus we'll be there also," Laurie said.
"And although some of us do have large weapons we like to use," Eric added. "I'm sure between the five of us, we'll be able to handle anything a couple of doctor's can come up with."
"Oh, all right. I'll be right back," he said walking to the door.
"Make sure you have gloves with you," Lorenz mentioned.
"Why?" he asked.
"Because the male doctor likes to use poisons," Lorenz said.
Jarne nodded and left the room. After a few minutes, there was a knock at the door. Eric opened it. Jarne walked inside wearing a large bulky coat that reached to his knees. "I left the battle-axe in my room. Will I need to wear the gloves?"
"No, just have them handy for when we get inside," Gennifer said.
"Well then, what's the plan?" Jarne smiled.
"Well," Eric began. "We'll leave the inn and wait down the street in the carriage. Close enough so we can see the doctors enter the inn but far enough so we have a head start to get into their house and office."
"When they enter the inn we'll move to their house," Laurie continued.
"I should be able to get us into the house," Eric said. "If my skills can't do it, we could use your acid. But we want to try and make an entry as unnoticeable as possible. Just in case we don't find anything."
"Both outside and inside," Gennifer continued, "I'll check to see if there's any magic in use."
"Which is doubtful since Mrs. Estevez is probably Lamordian," Eric said.
"What does that have anything to do with it," Jarne asked.
"Lamordian's don't believe in magic," Eric said.
"Meanwhile," Lorenz interjected. "I'll be checking for poisons."
"You think there'll be poisons on everything, like doorknobs?" Jarne asked.
"Possibly," Lorenz answered. "Mr. Dr. Estevez is quite handy with them. It appears he's been poisoning the children here in town the past few years."
"And no one noticed?"
"The ones that did seems to have been chastised by the town hierarchy," Eric said.
"After we get inside," Laurie continued. "We'll try to locate the entrance to the basement. Then do what we can to gain entry."
"And that's where I come in," Jarne said proudly. "Of course our family does provide excellent trap doors that are extremely hard to detect."
"Then you could be helpful at finding the entrance also," Gennifer added.
"Once we get into the basement," Eric said. "We find out what the doctors are up to."
"And we're getting there by carriage?"
"Yes," Eric said. "We rented the carriage for the day."
"With a driver?" Jarne asked.
"Won't the driver get suspicious if we go to the doctors place when the doctors are out?"
The four friends looked at each other.
"We didn't think of that," Gennifer said.
"Maybe we could see about getting the carriage without the driver," Lorenz suggested.
"Maybe we could pay him to be quiet," Laurie suggested.
"The driver we've had this morning has been young. So I doubt we can use his children being poisoned by the doctors as leverage," Gennifer mentioned.
"What about Mr. Farrell," Lorenz commented.
"Mr. Farrell is having dinner here in the restaurant between 6:30 and 7:30 to try and keep the doctors here longer if we aren't back by then," Eric mentioned.
"Perhaps I should get my nephew. He can sit in the carriage and make sure the driver doesn't do anything that could jeopardize our efforts."
"Only if we can't get the driver to stay behind," Eric said moving to the door. "The carriage driver is a Steinware. I'll be back in a few minutes." He left the room.
Jarne took off the coat and began checking through his equipment. He opened pouches, counted tools, inventoried everything on his suit.
"I've never seen a dwarf wear something like that," Lorenz commented. "I've seen gnomes. It's kind of like leather armor that they put all manner of tools and gadgets and things on. They use it when they work."
"Yes, I've seen those too. This is very much like them," Jarne said, continuing his inventory. "Most dwarves don't like it. In fact, they tend to make fun of me, call me names, some even shun me. But I have everything I'll ever need, it's all here, within reach. Except of course my battle-axe."
Eric entered the room. "What room are you and your nephew in?"
Eric left the room.
"Guess the driver's along for the ride," Jarne said.
The room was growing dark. Laurie lit the lamps.
After a few minutes, Eric returned with Jarne's nephew. Laamon Stonebreaker didn't look much younger than Jarne. He wore a cloak over his clothes that seemed to have something sticking up behind his left shoulder. He also had something in his hand. He walked over to the table and sat down in one of the chairs. He looked frustrated. He lifted his hand with the object in it and opened it. It was a book.
The group waited in the room. Jarne inventoried his suit over and over; Lorenz eventually stopped with the poison and gathered his tools; Laurie and Gennifer looked through the items they were taking; Eric sat and smoked cigars; and Laamon read his book. When it was six o'clock, the group was startled by a knock at the door. Eric got up and asked who it was. It was Mr. Farrell. Eric opened the door and let him in. He looked anxious.
"So," he began, "is everything ready for tonight?"
"Looks that way," Eric said.
Mr. Farrell noticed Laamon sitting at the table. "Is he going along with you?"
"To watch over the carriage driver," Laamon said, disinterested. "Just another wild goose chase."
"Not for us, master dwarf," Mr. Farrell said. "Our children are at stake."
"Perhaps. And that's good for you. But for us, this is just another of my uncle's wild goose chases. This will be just like all the other times we've tracked down leads. It will be fruitless. There comes a time when we should just give it up and move on."
"Fine," Jarne said. "Fine, this is the last goose chase you will have to come on. Just do your part with as much enthusiasm as you put into your building and I will ask no more of you."
"Deal," Laamon said, perking up. He set the book down on the table.
"Two of the Steinware girls died to this poison. Maybe we can appeal to the driver's sense of justice or revenge. If that's the case, Laamon, you'll have an easy evening."
"Good! When do we leave?"
"About 15 minutes," Gennifer said.
"Mr. Farrell," Laurie began, "if you do have to stall the doctors, make sure you don't tip our hand."
"I understand," he said. "We don't want the mayor and the elders coming down on you before you get evidence."
They all sat down and went over the plan once more. When everyone was aware of their parts to play, they gathered their things and left the room, locking it behind them.
They descended the stairs. Dieter was behind the front desk. He turned and watched the group. Mr. Farrell walked into the restaurant. The rest of the group left the inn. Dieter smiled. He walked to the door to the restaurant and nodded to Inga behind the bar. She smiled back. Dieter returned to the front desk. She came from around the bar with a stein of beer and sat it at a table and ushered Mr. Farrell to it. Mr. Farrell took the hint.
She whispered, "This will give you the best view." Then louder, "would you like something for dinner Mr. Farrell?"
Outside, the sun had just set and there was an inch of powdered snow on the ground. Good, everyone thought, they have cover of night, but bad that the snow would show their tracks. The group got into the carriage. Not everyone fit, convenient, so Laamon got up with the driver. They said, to take a casual stroll south to the butcher. When they got to the butcher they noticed a two-person carriage approaching from the south. It was the doctor's carriage. When the doctors passed, Eric leaned out of the carriage and watched. The driver got a bit nervous. Eric patted him on the arm and smiled warmly. When the doctors got out and went into the inn. Eric told the driver to go to the Open Market Place, which was just past the doctor's house. The driver commented that it was closed. Eric told him again. When they reached the market Eric told the driver to pull into the first section on the left side, just behind the doctor's house. Everyone but Laamon got out of the carriage. The driver looked nervous. Everyone but Eric stepped into the line of shrubs between the doctor's house and the market.
Eric looked to the driver. "Steinware, how were the girls who died from this mysterious disease related to you?"
"My daughters sir," he said.
"I wouldn't have thought you that old."
"Thank you sir."
"Do you want to know what really happened to them?"
"Do you want to prevent this from happening to anyone else's children?"
"Like your brother Karl? Yes sir."
"Do you want the person or persons behind this to pay for their crimes?"
"Then you'll turn a blind eye now."
Eric turned and disappeared into the shrubs.
The others were waiting by the backdoor to the house. The door was solid with no windows. Lorenz and Jarne were looking at the doors locks. There were three. Eric stepped up beside them and looked at them. He recognized the locks from some the locksmith showed Gennifer and him earlier.
Lorenz whispered. "There doesn't appear to be any foreign substances on the locks."
Gennifer whispered. "I hear noises."
Everyone listened. There were muffled noises coming from the house. Jarne held his hand up and listened. He turned his head from side to side trying to find it's location. He leaned down, turned his head several more times, then got on his hands and knees.
"It's coming from the basement," he declared. He looked at the others. "Comes from years in the mines." He smiled.
Eric pulled one of the leather cases from his boots. He opened it and pulled out tools and began picking the locks. It took only a few minutes and he opened the door a crack. He held up his hand. Everyone waited while he put his tools away. Then he pulled the 8½" long, 5½" wide, and 3" thick leather case from an inside pocket. He opened it and pulled out a mirror with a long curved handle. He slipped the mirror into the door and looked around. A lamp burnt in the hallway. It was enough to illuminate the area enough for him to see there was nothing above or around the door. He opened the door a little more and looked around using the mirror again. Then he opened the door further. He did this enough times until the door was open enough for the largest person, namely Jarne, to get into the door. Then he looked at the floor. He could not see anything unusual about it. So he stepped inside.
He looked around again then waved the next person inside. Once everyone was inside he looked at the doorway. He didn't notice anything unusual about it. Lorenz looked also. They closed the door gently.
Eric waved at Jarne and he began inspecting the floor. Lorenz and Eric also looked about the floor. It took 15 minutes before Jarne noticed something different in the floorboards. He waved everyone to the spot. He, Lorenz and Eric inspected the area. There was a hairline square-shaped seam in the floor in the corner along the back wall and the east wall farthest from the office. Lorenz nodded that it looked all right to him. And stepped back. Jarne and Eric looked more closely at the area. Jarne shook his head and pointed to himself. Eric moved back a bit. Continuing to look at the floor, Jarne pulled several tools from various places on the suit. He started poking at the square in the floor.
Laurie and Gennifer were looking around the hallway. There were no windows in the back of the house. The only windows were the two door-length windows on either side of the front door. They were covered by curtains.
After a few minutes Jarne managed to find the latch for the trapdoor. It was closest to the back wall. He lifted it a bit and waved Lorenz over. Lorenz looked at the area, he nodded his approval, then Jarne waved Eric over. Eric looked at the area. He didn't notice anything and nodded his approval. Jarne was about to grab the handle when Lorenz caught his attention. He motioned to his hands and put his gloves on. Everyone except Eric put their gloves on. Then Jarne grabbed the handle and lifted the trapdoor. It didn't budge. He frowned. He slipped something under the handle so it would not fall flush with the floor and stood up. He motioned around the walls and mouthed, "five feet."
Everyone began looking around the walls. Eric found something on the back wall above the trapdoor. He waved to Jarne. Jarne looked at the area and nodded. He took out a few more tools and poked at the area. There was a clicking sound.
Everyone held their breaths a moment. Nothing happened. Jarne kneeled down and grabbed the handle. The door lifted. He stopped when the trapdoor was up about an inch.
They all heard voices from below. But no one could discern anything.
Eric looked at the area. He didn't notice anything. Then Lorenz looked at the area. He didn't notice anything either. So Jarne opened the door more. This went on until the door was open and laying on the floor. The room below went silent.
There were stone stairs beneath the door. The room beneath was lit. Jarne and Eric leaned down and looked at the stairs. They noticed nothing out of the ordinary.
Then came a noise that shocked everyone. They heard a baby cry.
Everyone held their breaths again. Then a voice came from below.
"Well," a young man said. "Are you going to take care of him or what?"
"Kurt!" Eric exclaimed. Then forgot all caution and bolted down the stairs.
"No!" Gennifer exclaimed then followed.
"Jarne," Laurie said. "Can you make sure the door doesn't close?"
"I can remove it from the hinge."
"Do it," Laurie said. "Lorenz go with them. Call if you need help. I'll stay here with Jarne."
When Eric reached the bottom of the stairs he couldn't believe what he saw. The room was filled with 11 exam tables, 3 along the south wall had 3 dwarves chained to them and 8 along west wall, beneath the doctor's office, 7 of the tables had the dead children strapped to them. Kurt was one of them. All of them wore nightshirts and had bare feet. The girls and two of the dwarves nightshirts had blood stains on them and there was dried blood on the floor at the base of their tables. But in front of him were two rows of cribs. He could see movement in them. And one of them was crying.
"Kurt!" Eric exclaimed, running to his brother's table.
"Eric? What are you doing here?"
"Rescuing you." Eric looked at the restraints. "Gennifer, what time is it?"
Gennifer checked her pocket watch. "Five past seven."
"Help free them," Eric stated. He took the dagger from its' sheath at his back and cut the straps.
Gennifer walked to the children and looked at the restraints. They were strapped down. She pulled out her dagger and began to cut the straps. She noticed two of the girls, one set of twins, were obviously pregnant. The children were paired up by twins, twin girls at the end, then twin boys, then twin girls, then Kurt and an empty table. There were signs on the wall at the children's heads, from nearest to farthest: M1, ST2, ST1, F2, F1, SC2, SC1. The dwarves were labeled from closest to the stairs to farthest: L, B, T. The cribs had signs on them also. Along the east wall the first three were unlabeled, the remainder from nearest to farthest: B-ST2/L, B-ST2/L, G-ST1/L, G-ST1/L, B-SC2/L, B-SC2/L. In the center of the room the first was unlabeled, the remainder from nearest to farthest: B-T/F1, G-T/F2, B-B/F2, G-T/F1.
Lorenz went to the dwarves. He looked at them. They all looked like they were male, but he could tell at least one was female, because she looked pregnant.
"One of you wouldn't be Leemon Stonebreaker would you?" he asked.
"Yes," the one closest to the stairs said.
"Then I would guess that you two, ah, ladies, would be Tanta and Britla."
The other two replied. "Yes."
"Jarne," Lorenz called.
"I think we can tell your nephew this time you didn't drag him on a wild goose chase after all."
"Leemon!" Jarne called.
"Yes, Jarne. We're here."
"Stay up there," Lorenz called. "We'll call if we need help."
Lorenz inspected the dwarves bindings. They were chained. "I would guess the straps didn't hold you three did they? I've got chains here."
"No, I broke my straps three times before they decided to use chains," the pregnant one said.
"And you would be?"
"Tanta," she said.
"What are they doing to you, inbreeding?"
"Mix breeding." Tanta said.
"Excuse me?" he said shocked.
"The woman has been trying to get a half-dwarf, half-human."
"I wouldn't think that was possible."
"I don't know what she's been doing? Or how? The ones she doesn't like she kills and dumps in the next room."
Eric helped Kurt up. "Can you stand?" he asked.
"They cured us once we were brought here."
"Good, help get everyone freed." He handed Kurt the dagger. Then he walked to the dwarves' tables.
"Maybe I can help." He looked at the chains and the locks on them.
"We're running out of time," Gennifer announced. "It's quarter past seven."
Once all the children were free, the children and Gennifer walked to the cribs. They started picking up the babies.
"What are they doing here?" Gennifer asked.
One of the non-pregnant girls picked up one of the babies. "These two girls are mine," she said. The two baby girls were labeled G-ST1/L. "She wasn't terribly happy with them. Their features are a little off, but they were twins so she kept them."
One of the twin boys spoke. "She keeps all the twins no matter what they look like. But the single births, they have to have certain characteristics for her to keep them." He picked up one of the boys closest to where his table was labeled B-T/F1. "He's mine with Britla. He was born a month ago."
Eric pulled out his lock picks and started to pick Britla's lock. "I could use some help with these locks," he called.
"Jarne!" Leemon called.
"Do you have any acid on you?"
"Yes I do."
"I'll get it," Lorenz said. He went up the stairs enough to get the vials of liquid Jarne handed down. "Thanks." He walked back to the dwarves tables opened the vials and began dripping the acid onto the locks. It took only a moment for the acid to eat away the locks.
Leemon jumped from the table and ran up the steps to the waiting arms of Jarne. They hugged laughing.
"We don't have time for a reunion," Laurie said. "We need to get out of here."
"Right," Leemon said breaking away from his brother's embrace. "I'll help with the babies." He raced down the stairs and went to the cribs. He picked up two of the babies. The children grabbed the rest of the babies and they all headed up the steps to freedom. Everyone raced upstairs except Eric. Gennifer stopped at the top of the stairs and looked back.
"What are you waiting for?" she asked.
"I want to see the other room."
"No!" called one of the girls from the top of the stairs. "The door has some trick to it. The lady takes five minutes to open it."
"Eric," Gennifer said gently. "We can come back. We need to bring the doctor's crime to everyone's attention."
"True," he said. Then went up the stairs.
Eric was the last one out the door. He closed it. When he got to the carriage, Leemon and Laamon were hugging happily. Mr. Steinware was on the ground hugging his daughters as they held the babies. They were crying. The four girls got into the carriage, with the babies, as did Gennifer and Laurie. There were twelve babies in all. Tanta was helped into the seat next to Mr. Steinware. The men and young men all walked.
It was cold and the nightshirts weren't very warm. The babies had blankets, but they wouldn't be enough. Mr. Steinware pulled two blankets from under his seat. Laurie and Gennifer took off their coats and wrapped two of the young women in them. Mr. Steinware also gave his coat to one of the young women. Jarne gave Tanta his coat. Laamon tried to give it to Britla.
Britla shrugged it off. "Give it to one of the women inside, for the babies."
Eric took his coat off and gave it to Britla. She took his coat. "Be careful, there are a few things in the pockets."
"We need to get them inside somewhere fast," Eric said. "Who's the closest that would help?"
"Turner Gunsmith or Oscar von Reinhardt's house are the closest that have someone living in them," Mr. Steinware said.
"You go then," Eric began. "We'll catch up."
Mr. Steinware got the horses moving.
Eric picked Kurt up and carried him. Lorenz picked up one of the Farrell boys. Laamon told the other Farrell boy to sit into his arms. Leemon stomped forward in his bare feet his head held high, breathing in the cold night air, just happy to be free. They walked as quickly as possible to where the carriage stopped. It was Oscar von Reinhardt's house. Mrs. von Reinhardt welcomed them in with open arms and warm blankets. She ushered them toward the fire. Mr. von Reinhardt was putting another log on the fire. She ran into the kitchen and brought out cups of hot soup for everyone.
"We need to tell people about this," Eric mentioned. "Let everyone know what the doctor's have been doing. They can't get away with this."
A knock came to the door. Mr. von Reinhardt opened the door. Mr. Farrell stood there.
"I saw the carriage in the yard. I kept the doctors as long as I could." Mr. Farrell had a black eye and bloody nose. "Are they here?"
"Come in please," Mr. von Reinhardt said. "You'll want to see your boys."
"What?" he said walking past. "Oh, no!" he exclaimed and ran to his sons. He hugged them and began crying.
Kurt walked over and hugged Eric. "I didn't think you were coming."
"I came as soon as I heard."
"He's fine. He and Olga are at the Farrell's farm."
"How is he?"
"Fine. We neutralized the poison in his system. He's still weak. But he's not sick any longer."
"Good. We knew you would help."
"Too bad father didn't have as much faith in me as you two do."
"I'm not going back to our father."
"You boys and Olga can stay with me for as long you want," Mr. Farrell told them.
"Then I'd like to come with you on some of your adventures," Kurt smiled. "I always loved reading your letters, when we got them before father that is."
"I'll give you the ladies address. You can always get in contact with me through them."
"Gentlemen," Gennifer called. "If Mr. Farrell is here, that means the doctor's were going home. They'll fine their basement empty. If we don't do something soon, the doctor's will probably cut and run."
Britla walked over and gave Eric his coat back. "Thank you."
Mr. Farrell stood. "Let's go get them."
"I agree," Mr. Steinware said.
"The children and the dwarves will be fine here," Mr. von Reinhardt said. "Go do what you need to."
Laurie, Gennifer, the men and the dwarves all got their coats back and left the house. But what they found when they got outside was not to their liking.
There were people running and riding horses down the street with buckets in hand. There was a fire. The doctor's house was burning.
"We're too late." Mr. Farrell growled.
They stood there watching the flames shoot into the sky. Then Mr. Farrell ran toward the street.
"You!" he screamed. "Wagner!"
The mayor stopped in the street and looked at Mr. Farrell. When Mr. Farrell got to him he grabbed the mayor by the collar.
"You did this!" he exclaimed.
"You're blaming this fire on me?" Mayor Wagner spat. "How dare you? You were the one fighting with Raphael. I'd say you did this."
The others ran into the street as well. Mr. Steinware grabbed both men's arms.
"Our children are not dead," Mr. Steinware said.
"What are you talking about Steinware," Mayor Wagner said.
"The doctors poisoned our children, made us believe they were dead and did things to them in their basement." Mr. Steinware tightened the grip on the Mayor's arm.
"What are you talking about?"
"He's right," Eric said. "The children are in Mr. von Reinhardt's house, along with three dwarves. One doctor was testing out his new poison on the children, in the form of vitamins and medicines, the other was trying to cross humans and dwarves in the basement."
"And I'd say you were in on it." Mr. Farrell growled. "After all, your kids never got sick."
"Mine weren't the only kids not to get sick," the mayor said.
"But the others couldn't afford to go to the doctors," Eric said.
"I didn't know," the mayor defended.
"I don't believe you," Mr. Steinware said.
"Neither do I," Mr. Farrell said.
"I doubt anyone in town will either once the smoke clears," Eric pointed to the doctor's burning house, "in the light of day."
"That is a Stonebreaker fortified basement," Jarne declared proudly. "It will survive the fire. Guaranteed."
A/N: With the exception of Laurie and Gennifer Weathermay-Foxgrove, Dr. Rudolph van Richten, and George Weathermay, all the characters of this story are mine. The town of Reikenburg is mine, however all the other locations are Ravenloft cannon.
Although this is where I ended the story, I did do a follow-up to this for the netbook. It was more game info for DM's should any choose to use anything here for their games. If anyone wants, I can write a story telling about the aftermath. Let me know. Otherwise this is the end.