Random Encounter 9

From Anainn’s Random Encounter thread on the SoE realm forum. I picked 9 for Tripsy and got #9: You have been gnome-napped!

Sodding fel. This was not her blanket.

Suddenly awake, she froze, willing herself to feel the warmth of–no. No one else in the bed. She went from panic to high alert. Slowly, she lifted her head. A flowered comforter. A nightstand. Candleholder with unburnt candle. No neighboring pillow with a dent in it.

To all appearances she was alone, but where? This was a bad thing to not remember.

And why was she wearing flower print pajamas? This did not bode well. She sat up. What did she remember? She’d been home. Ironforge, the apartment, working on a design for a heat exchanger for the new engine idea. Situation normal, then. She had a pint of last month’s pale ale. Oh, and the duck. She’d gotten up to check the roasting duck because something smelled funny. Oh.

She searched the room. No sign of her leathers. A dress, in her size, and another godsawful flower print? Someone gassed her and dumped her in this? This had the stench of human all over it.

The morning air was bracing. She stepped out of the small cottage, still in the flowered pajamas. She didn’t terribly mind that her knives had also gone missing, as killing someone with her bare hands would be extremely satisfying right now.

A man, human, cycled past and saw her on the stoop. He waved. “Morning, number nine!” he called.

Tripsibet Teavalve was speechless.

The bicyclist squeaked off down the lane. The lane lined with cottages exactly like this one. Exactly except for the numerals on the front door of each. She went back inside number 9 and got dressed.

Tripsibet Teavalve walked in the direction she’d seen the bicylist squeak. She wore an ecru a-line dress cleverly printed with pale green vines, flowers the same shade as her hair and a numeral 9. Her sandals were the pebbly leather of natural plainstrider hide.

The sameness of the cottages had made her think there were a lot of them, but the end of the lane was only a few doors down. It opened onto a cobbled plaza lined with shops. Most of these were closed, but a knot of people were gathered at a kiosk opposite the entrance. She saw the erstwhile bicyclist absorbed in a newspaper and the consumption of a scone.

One person greeted her and then there was a ragged chorus of “Good morning, number nine!” Humans. Two dwarves. A gnome. “Have some tea, won’t you?”

“Just call me Tripsy. Who -are- you people?”

Laughter. “Good one, number nine.”

“Number nine!” the bicyclist beckoned to her. “We’re celebrities!”

She looked at the newspaper. It was a broadsheet, really, printed on one side, with a masthead proclaiming it the “Shire Chronicle.” It had two articles. One was headlined “24 Wins Checkers Tournament” but the main story was “WELCOME #9 TO SHIRE”. The rest of the page was filled with greeking that, from a distance, looked like lines of text.

“I take it you’re the checkers champion.”

“Oh yes.” He tapped the “24” sewn to his blazer. “Sorry you missed it.”

She shrugged. “I’m more interested in what this place is.”

“You, ah, don’t know? You didn’t retire here?” He shifted in his seat and glanced away quickly before leaning in, voice low. “I rent boats out on the pond. If you need someplace quiet to go. Somewhere private.”

She was taking this in when another round of greetings sounded out.

“Good morning, good morning!” The new arrival was a somewhat gaunt-looking human with a “2” on his blazer. His voice was more impressive than his frame, though, and once he started to talk all other conversation seemed like background noise. “I see you’ve all met number nine. That’s wonderful, just wonderful.”

“Number nine?” he turned to her. “We should probably have that chat now.”

“That chat. We were going to have a chat?”

“Exactly. My office?” He handed her a cup of tea and poured one for himself.

The office was upstairs from the tea and scones kiosk. It was empty save for a long table and a few chairs. He sat. She stood. He steepled his fingers.

“So. You present a problem. I don’t know what your name is, but it’s not Tripsydamus.”

She snickered. “Just call me Tripsy.”

“I don’t think so. You were a standout agent for the Twilight cult. Remarkable what you accomplished. Things could have gone differently, but you disappeared. Why?”

“First things first. Where am I?”

“In the Shire.”

“Not very helpful. What do you want?”

“Information.”

“Whose side are you on?”

“That would be telling. We want information.”

“You won’t get it.”

“By hook or by crook, we will!”

“Who are you?”

“Number two.”

“Who is number one?”

“You are number nine.”

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