Dear God Have Mercy, There Are Two of Them

Professor Vex was in an ecstatic state of anticipation although to non-illithids this would have been nearly impossible to surmise. The mind flayer was one of several that were entrusted by the Queen of Slothjemia to monitor the psionic and mental activity within the throne room, and only minutes earlier there had entered into the Royal Court a wildly eclectic group of people. There were many things that piqued the interest of an illithid like an interesting person with a sharp intelligence and a brain filled with intriguing ideas ripe for perusing. These were those sorts of visitors. It was the Archduke of Maelonbourg, Xan Kovak, and a number of his associates that included his wife, the youngest daughter of the Slothjemian Queen. Collectively this group had become known as “The Troublemakers.”

Unlike anyone else that had happened into the throne room of the Royal Court, though, one of those guests bore an unmistakable tattoo mark on her neck. Even from a distance Professor Vex could see that it was a unique brand. More exciting than that was the nature of the mark. It was undeniably illithid in origination. Vex communicated mentally with the Lord Executioner who was standing only a few feet away from him near the Queen’s throne.

“That woman with the goggles. She isn’t a natural entity. I believe she was created by the illithid.”

The Lord Executioner, a dapper fellow named Shr Drendolm Bardishe, was accustomed to hearing the messages of the mind flayers in his head whenever they were present at court. He looked at Vex over his shoulder, and mentally posed the question, “Are you certain?”

Vex appeared emotionless save for the squirming of the four tentacles on his face that covered his mouth as it replied wordlessly “Yes, my lord. It is for certain.”

Shr Bardishe waited for a discreet moment to approach the Queen, and he whispered something in her ear. The Queen then turned her attention back to her visitors and inquired to the nature of the young woman in the goggles. There followed a brief discussion of how the Troublemakers had come to know this maiden, who was known to them as Lucinda, and the Queen asked if she might not be allowed to have the mysterious young woman examined by members of her court to ascertain her identity and purpose.

While there seemed to be general agreement that this was acceptable, Professor Vex had devoted its time probing the minds of the group accompanying the lady in question. Vex lost track of the discussion as it delved deeper and deeper into their conscious and subconscious minds. It was an intoxicating experience. There was one fellow here that had especially delicious thoughts. His name was Baron Shr Tubicus Aurelius and he was a paladin that served as the “First Knight of Maelonbourg.” Vex easily discerned that the paladin was deeply in love with Lucinda and was therefore overly protective of her. Vex also skimmed the thoughts of Archduchess Shar Lersha Kovak-Slothjem and was startled to find that she was leery of Lucinda due to the uncanny resemblance that Lucinda bore to Lersha. There was general agreement in the minds of all of the Troublemakers that Lucinda was some sort of clone or replica of Lersha, but none could hazard a guess as to why this duplicate would have been commissioned or who would have done this task.

Vex was unable to probe the thoughts of one of the guests, however. This wasn’t unusual in and of itself because the targeted individual was apparently a high-ranking priest. Professor Vex had encountered this before among particularly devout people. Their connection to their deity was so powerful and unshakeable that even the most determined of psionicists had difficulty gaining access to their thoughts. Vex had often tried to probe the mind of the Queen’s husband, the Herzgraf, because he was a paladin of great notoriety. Vex had never been able to get anywhere with those attempts, either. This character was named Father Grattius and he seemed to be the odd man out among these otherwise rambunctious adventurers. It was obvious though from the ideas harbored by the other so-called Troublemakers that Father Grattius had been an important calming influence and tutor to Lucinda as she was becoming acclimated to life among regular people. Whatever her past had been Lucinda hadn’t been around people much.

Professor Vex was now in a comfortably outfitted room with a narrow, tall window on one wall that looked out over a courtyard. Lucinda sat in a chair near the window still wearing her goggles. Father Grattius stood next to her with his hand comfortingly on her shoulder. The Herzgraf was here as well, and it was his soothing voice that filled the room as he asked Lucinda a number of questions. There was also another illithid who had been summoned to assist, a certain Doctor Vir who had on occasion done the same job as Professor Vex was doing in the Royal Court today. There were also a number of officers representing the Slothjemian navy because the illithid were more their concern lately than they were to anyone else. The Herzgraf chose his words carefully and never failed to smile disarmingly. Vex and Vir probed the mind of Lucinda as innocuously as they were able to during the questioning not only to decide if her testimony was truthful but to try and see what other secrets she might be holding that the Herzgraf would need to be warned of. They conveyed their concerns by way of telepathy and the Herzgraf would adjust his questions accordingly.

There were numerous breaks for food and drink during what must have been the most leisurely interrogation in history. As alien as humans were to the illithids it was always a marvel as to how they interacted with one another when there was cause for tension. Vex and Vir were quite caught up in it. Hours went by and Lucinda became more and more relaxed and at ease as the Herzgraf questioned her. Lucinda seemed to have great difficulty answering vocally, though. Instead, her answers were projected telepathically in the same was as the illithid were able to do. While unable to read the thoughts of others as the mind flayers did Lucinda was nevertheless able to send her thoughts outward for others to hear in their own minds. This allowed her to “talk” to everyone in the room at once while not making any actual sounds.

Professor Vex and Doctor Vir made some interesting discoveries during the course of this afternoon. First, her name wasn’t really Lucinda. Lucinda was the name given to her by the first people she met after escaping the illithid. Her real designation was “Special Project Drar’goroth #7 for the purpose of deeper comprehension” which admittedly didn’t have the same lyrical ring to it as did “Lucinda.” She wasn’t aware of her origins, but she knew that she was only three years old despite appearing to be around twenty years of age. This meant that the illithid had somehow aged her unnaturally. Lucinda wasn’t aware of why this had been done, either. Lucinda had the trace abilities of a magic user and can cast simple spells without any reagents or even a spellbook. She was also a quick and capable warrior if need be and had fought her way to freedom by taking over a small spelljamming craft and crashing it someplace in Lotharingia. From there she had been rescued by some nuns known as the Sisterhood of Delilah who had given her the name Lucinda. After staying with them awhile, something had spooked Lucinda and she fled again. Captured by the Lotharingians who viewed the mute woman as a witch, she was subsequently rescued by Baron Tubicus Aurelius and some of his associates who rescued Father Grattius in the process. In a round about way this brought everyone up to speed.

This did confirm that the illithid had a hand in creating Lucinda. It wasn’t much help in determining why they would have done this, especially since it was so blatantly obvious that Lersha had been the person who had been cloned to make Lucinda. Lersha had after all been an officer in the Slothjemian Navy and had served for years aboard spelljammers, even facing the illithids of wildspace in combat on multiple occasions. The connection was there but the Herzgraf was still missing elements of the story that would tie it all together.

“What we need to do is get our hands on one of the wildspace illithid to see what the rationale was behind this bizarre plot.” Mused the Herzgraf aloud once Lucinda and Father Grattius had been excused from further inquiries. “We seem to have the mind flayer’s project in hand, but no earthly notion as to why they would have done this.” There was agreement to this by all in the room. Vex looked at Vir and the two illithid silently communicated their own thoughts. Professor Vex had after all detected something in the throne room earlier. One of the Troublemakers had managed to kill a sickly wildspace illithid not more than a week ago, one that had been rescued from spelljammer wreckage in the Archduke’s lands. That ill-fated mind flayer undoubtedly knew what its kin were up to. The fact that it was now dead was problematic. If it was alive the Herzgraf could quickly find the answers he sought. The recourse was to find another one to interrogate. Vex and Vir agreed. The Troublemakers were too reckless to be trusted to carry out this mission. Slothjemia would need to do its own dirty work.