Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The End of Madam Guto

One evening, Beatriss and Tetsukichi were taking a late supper at a noodle shop in their neighborhood, when they were approached by “a scrawny, pocked little man with patchy hair and graying skin” who recognized them from the discussion group meeting that they’d recently attended. He complimented them on their attention during the meeting, while insinuating that, as new-comers, perhaps they would benefit from a review of the matters discussed. The man, who introduced himself as Yen-ch’eng Tzu Yu, offered to accompany them to their house and teach them. Beatriss and Tetsukichi agreed.

Despite his bright-eyed zeal and his students’ honest interest, Yen-ch’eng was not able to make the ideas accessible to Tetsukichi. But he seemed eager to offer additional help. Beatriss told him about the problems she’d been having with Madam Guto and her fears that the woman would use her magic to break into the house and harm her children. He explained that if a malignant being were present he might be of help driving it away, but that he could offer no permanent warding charm or talisman. Beatriss gave Yen-ch’eng a chance to meet her children, and the guest seemed very much taken with the shape-changing toddlers (redundant modifier? Ed.) He expressed his own conviction that the children be protected at all costs and offered to sleep outside their door. Beatriss declined that offer, but negotiated with Sansar Anca (“Uncle”) to allow him to stay in the house for a few days.

Beatriss and Tetsukichi also made contact with Cair and Myrrha, the “very foreign” visitors who listened to the story about Madam Guto and gave an explanation similar to Yen-ch’eng’s: they could help her fight magic with magic, but couldn’t do anything that that would give Beatriss or her children permanent, general protection.

When Golfo went missing for a couple days, Beatriss and Tetsukichi decided it was time to act. Leaving Nardon at the house to guard the children, they coiuld still assemble a strong and varied party of warriors and spell-casters including Yen-ch’eng and Cair & Myrrha.

The group went to the House of Jourdain at dusk, and Beatriss announced that they were there for their friend Golfo. After being made to wait outside the gate for several minutes, they were welcomed into the courtyard. Madam Guto extended a special welcome to Beatriss and the sudden change in Beatriss’s demeanor—from stern and wary to relaxed and friendly—confused her friends.

wicked witch by birdcage
wicked witch, a photo by birdcage on Flickr.

Tetsukichi seemed to guess that something was wrong and he tried to hold her back.

Madam Golfo was accompanied by only a few guards—Young Gamo (son of the recently-arrested Hidenobu Gamo and brother to “Little Gamo”) with three Gamo family retainers plus Golfo. Golfo’s friendliness with Madam Guto increased the party’s suspicion that their friends were under the influence of some kind of spell—Myrrha, Cair, and and Yen-Ch’eng employed their charm-breaking incantations to full effect. One of Madam Guto’s own guards saw this as an opportunity and drew his sword on his employer. The old woman reacted swiftly, deflecting his blade with her cane and then cracking him on the head.

The party charged and and Madam Guto ran for the house. Beatriss grabbed her as she reached the door and through her on the ground, whereupon the others set upon her with swords and magic missiles. Guto drew her own sword from within her cane and slashed at their ankles—despite her uncanny quickness, they killed her. As soon as she died, Young Gamo and his retainers, surprised by a sudden insight, attacked her dead body. Likewise, three women in silken finery emerged from the house to curse and kick her corpse.

And then they began stripping her valuables: a few strings of coins, small jewelry, a strange iron dagger around her neck, the cane-sword . . . Beatriss took her keys and ordered Young Gamo to show where she kept her treasure. He gladly led the party upstairs to her office—the room with the demon in a bamboo cage.

The treasure of course was in a chest inside the cage. Cair negotiated for an extra share and then agreed to be the open to open the cage and grab the chest. The demon threatened and cajoled the party to erase the chalk circle which, the party decided, was its true prison. They declined, and after reading a warding scroll as an additional precaution, Cair, opened the cage and dragged the chest, first out of the room, and then with Golfo’s help, down the stairs and out of the house. They opened the chest and distributed the contents—strings of coins, and silver bars— roughly 700 taels in total value.

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