Nelon furrowed his brow in irritation as he fumbled with the scattered vials and bottles on his alchemic mixing table. He was just unable to concentrate at all today; the laboratory was a complete mess from last night’s attack, and so was he. He wore a surprisingly clean ivory-colored cloak—a sharp contrast against his ebon skin— with a rumpled white button-up shirt and faded brown trousers tucked into dark leather boots. His normally well-groomed shoulder-length black hair was mussed and his usual bright-eyed gaze, now dull from lack of rest, scanned the alchemic workshop mournfully.
The dark wood walls were still stained with random chemicals and the room’s air reeked of spilled fluids. All the glass had been swept up from the wood-board floor this morning, and the two chairs by the laboratory table were back in their proper place. The cedar desk on the other side of the room, opposite of the door and away from the lab area, was still in good condition. His attacker hadn’t gone that far to find what she was looking for.
With a sigh, Nelon fell into his chair; leaning back wearily, he dragged his fingers through his hair. He was exhausted from dealing with the lab cleanup. Sweeping up glass and mopping chemicals wasn’t fun, but tallying costs to replace each broken vial or damaged ingredient was even worse.
To make matters worse, the city’s guards were no help. The guard that had arrived to examine the crime scene barely paid attention to him when he tried to explain what happened—after all, she had sneered, you’ve only been robbed of one formula. They had no idea how important that recipe was! Their apathy had forced Nelon to put out a call for some private help in finding his stolen goods. The whole situation was very time sensitive; he needed a response soon, before the secret of his encrypted formula was revealed.
“I think this is the place,” Joley said quietly, her dark brown eyes scanning the surroundings out of habit. It was evening in Ahgram, and shadows fell thickly from the nearby looming structures. Completing her cursory look around, she moved lightly up the stone steps to the sturdy wood door of the building in front of her. Though fairly young for a gnome, she was still an adult—the way her athletic frame moved spoke of years of training. She was clad in a white cotton shirt, brown leather vest, cloth breeches, leather vest and worn boots. A plain, curved short sword was sheathed on her left hip, an identically styled dagger on her right. Her attitude and attire projected practical competence.
Rold frowned as the other gnome made her way up to the door. “This seems like a lot of work for little profit.” He sighed. “But at least it’ll keep us busy and fed until the heat dies down.”
Rold was a little bit older than Joley, and his great mind for planning was obvious in his immaculate appearance His straight, coal-colored hair brushed his ears and was held back with a crimson headband, accenting his onyx eyes and perfectly-groomed goatee. His simple clothing hung loosely on his thin form: a long-sleeved red shirt, gray trousers, and polished black boots. A slender cudgel hung freely from his belt, swinging a little with each movement he made.
Joley rapped on the door with her knuckles; the two gnomes exchanged a glance as they waited patiently for the entrance to open. After a moment, it did, and the duo looked up at a tall, thin human in a white cloak.
Nelon blinked once, and looked down at them. “Yes? May I help you?” he asked politely.
Rold stepped up, and threw himself into a deep, exaggerated bow. “I am Rold Dakavstan, and this is Joley Poral. We are excellent at tracking and information gathering, and saw your request for help posted at one of this city’s fine establishments. You are the alchemist, who suffered an unfortunate theft, are you not?” The gnome finished his bow, and looked up at the human.
Nelon smiled widely, suddenly very interested in his new guests. “Why yes, that would be me. Nelon Issan is my name. I’m pleased to get such a quick response. Come in.” He pushed the door open wider to admit the two gnomes and ushered them inside. Leading them into the laboratory proper, he dragged over the two wooden chairs for them, and encouraged them to sit. Joley and Rold slid into the chairs easily despite their size, both smiling easily and looking at the human. The alchemist, leaned back in his chair, and started to speak.
“Well, it all happened last night. I was working late, putting the finishing touches on my newest alchemic formula. Suddenly, there was a loud crash and my door was flung open. A brutish individual came in, started destroying my poor lab, and knocked me out. When I awoke, I notified the city guards and took inventory. The only thing that was missing was the recipe for the new tonic I created,” Nelon finished with a shake of his head. “I need it back fast, and the guards don’t understand.”
The two gnomes exchanged another look, and then Joley spoke slowly with one raised eyebrow. “This … formula must be very important. So what did the attacker look like?”
Nelon smiled grimly. “Well, she was female; I could discern that from her voice. She had the look of those Lomshir folk from the southeast. She was swathed in a heavy tan cloak and a face-wrap so I couldn’t see much else about her. Oh, yes, she also carried a huge sword. I was afraid she would hit me with it.”
Rold looked thoughtful for a moment, and then waved a hand dismissively. “Obviously she was after that specific formula. Someone knew about it. Who have you told? Do you have any enemies?”
Nelon looked surprised for a moment. “Enemies? No, no I don’t think so.” A thoughtful look crossed the human’s face. “In fact, I had nothing but excited interest when I told everyone about my discovery last night at The Desert Flower. I didn’t tell them what it did though, of course.”
Joley sighed, and shook her head. “Brilliant. Who was listening to you? Was there anyone that seemed extremely interested?”
“Well, a few people did,” Nelon commented, frowning a bit. “Come to think of it, I might have seen that woman who attacked me in there that night. I wasn’t really paying attention, but there were a few strong-arms drinking at the bar. I can’t imagine what someone like her would want with it though.”
Rold stroked his goatee thoughtfully. “True, but she might think it’s worth some money to the right person. And perhaps she knows someone who could use it. We know where The Desert Flower is, that should be our first stop in checking things out.” Joley nodded in agreement, and the two gnomes hopped off their chairs and started for the door.
“Do you really think you can get my formula back?” Nelon slowly rose from his seat, his gaze following them hopefully.
Joley looked back with a wry grin, and shook a finger at the alchemist. “Don’t worry about it. We’re very good at getting what we want from people.”