Potion #9

The young reporter for the Black Horse Courier had been sent back to Gweden. Apparently Tsarrina had some important news, and she'd specifically requested that he come down and get it. He tried to appear reluctant to do the long journey, but not too much. He didn't want anyone else takng this assignment, just some cover if it took him longer than they expected.

He'd lost out on doing the report on Skingrad's food and wine, just like he thought he would. One of the Khajiit brothers had taken that assignment himself. At least he'd brought some wine and sweetrolls back to the office and shared them with the rest of the staff. The wine traveled well, but sweetrolls are always better when they're still warm from the oven. He'd have to stop on the way to Gweden, and if he left the city at the right time, he'd arrive at Skingrad at dusk and have to stay the night.

He wouldn't mind staying a few nights at Gweden, too, if he could find an excuse.

"If you ask Maeva, she'll tell you that some of her customers remind her of her late husband." Tsarrina told him. "But fortunately most of them can get it up." She grinned. "She won't be able to crack that one any more, because of this!"

Tsarrina held up a potion bottle, containing a bright blue liquid. "It's miraculous stuff. Works almost instantly, and lasts long enough to make the girls very happy. And we have exclusive commercial use here at Gweden."

That explained why Tsarrina wanted the story told, but he'd need to know some more about this potion. What was it called? Where did she get it?

"Silanu's cousin Miranu makes it. She hasn't given it a name yet, it's just number 9 right now. She sent some to us, and some to Silanu's sister for her own use. Apparently Falanu's going to test a different application than we can here."

That at least gave him an excuse to spend some time with Silanu, getting her side of the story. She'd want something in return, of course, and he'd be happy to meet her demands. He wondered how many of the others had any information.

When he left the following morning for Skingrad, he had several pages of notes.

Miranu's secret laboratory was somewhere near the old All Things Alchemical, and he'd need to get a key from Falanu. He'd already decided he needed to interview her. Silanu had suggested that her testing of the potion wasn't going to be quite the same as they were doing at Gweden, and he was curious.

He already knew about her taste for necrophilia. He found out about it on the way to Gweden on his first trip. Silanu had given him the whole story of how she got started on that, but he'd never asked her directly for her own viewpoint. This would be a good time to fill in that gap.

Falanu was working on making an ointment from the potion, for those who, for any reason, couldn't drink it. (That was a delicate way of putting it, they could even print that!) She'd made up a batch and her initial tests had been disappointing. It could just be that she needed to make a stronger mixture, but she didn't know if the effect was preserved in the ointment at all. It didn't affect her, so there was only one way she could test it.

He wouldn't get the key to Miranu's lab until he'd helped her find out. The things a reporter has to do for a story! She reassured him that he didn't need to be dead for this. She needed him to tell her what happened, and how it made him feel, and that needed a live subject.

He pointed out that the initial effect wasn't any true indication; if she did that with any ointment, he'd have reacted the same way.

He was sure that the rest of the effect wasn't just her. It had taken a couple of hours to wear off, and that was way past his normal capabilities, even after the training they'd given him at Gweden. Fatigue was still an issue, so she gave him potions to fix that problem. She didn't seem to need any, which probably explained her strange habits.

His legs were weak as he walked out of Skingrad towards the city. He hoped Miranu wasn't as amorous as her cousins. You can have too much of a good thing!

It was starting to get dark as he arrived at the old shop, and he was getting a bit concerned that the laboratory entrance was going to be hard to find in the gloom. He need not have worried, as a bright glow soon caught his eye. It was the dying embers of the fire from a small forge. An area of stone slabs, surrounded by a low, crumbling wall appeared to be the remnants of an old fort. The tower was long gone, but a weathered trapdoor was set in the floor. The key he'd been given fit the lock.

The short ladder led down to an ancient-looking corridor. The stone walls were rough near the entrance, but quickly gave way to much better masonry as he walked farther in. He called out to announce his arrival, and a female voice answered.

"If Falanu sent you, you're more than welcome. Come on down."

He reached the top of a broad flight of stairs leading down to a large chamber. At the near end, two large tanks held a green, slightly glowing liquid. At the other end two massive stone columns stood at the foot of another flight of steps that led up to a balcony. There were chains hanging from the columns with large shackles on the ends.

In between, a screened-off area enclosed a bed, and some chests and shelves. Presumably Miranu lived here, as well as using it for her research. He heard her voice again. "Up here, on the balcony."

He crossed the chamber, and walked up the stairs. Overlooking the chamber she had a row of tables covered in alchemical apparatus, with retorts and alembics bubbling, and calcinators fuming. Brightly-colored liquids were arranged in bottles of all sizes on the shelves at the end, Miranu was fixing a label to another one, and setting it in its place. She was almost a twin to her cousin Falanu, except for a greenish shade of skin.

He introduced himself and told her why he was there. "Oh yes, potion #9, one of my luckiest discoveries!" She replied. "But not the one I was looking for. That's a long story, and you should probably meet Boo before I start on that."

She called out, and a deep voice answered from beyond a pair of heavy wooden doors on the far wall of the chamber. Soon they swung open, and out walked a Minotaur!

The Minotaur was wearing a blacksmith's apron. It was apparently his forge that he'd passed on the way in.

"I'm pleased to make your aquaintance," said the Minotaur. "My name is Bucephalus. Miranu calls me Boo, for short. I gather you've come here to get our story for the Black Horse Courier?" Boo had seen the notebook he was writing in, and reached the right conclusion.

The reporter explained that his report was originally to be just about potion #9, but he could see there was a much bigger story behind it. He'd be glad to get all the details, but he couldn't guarantee what would appear in print. That was the editor's decision, not his.

"All the details will take a long time to recount," Miranu pointed out. "You'd better stay the night, and we'll tell you everything tomorrow. You can use the bed over there."

He'd only seen the one bed, so he asked her where she'd be sleeping. "In the cave with Boo, as usual. I hardly ever use that bed these days."

"You might want to read some of the books on the shelf there," she continued. "That will give you a bit of the background, and what we tell you tomorrow will make a bit more sense."

She took Boo's arm and they disappeared back through the doors into the cave.

On the shelf he found a book about Alessia, the first Empress of Cyrodiil. That didn't help much, until he remembered what he'd heard about her consort Morihaus. It was said that the statue bearing his name in the Arena district was nothing like him. He wasn't even human, but a winged bull, a demi-god son of Kynareth! Belharza, their son, had been a Minotaur, as well as becoming the second Emperor.

Another was her lab notes. The green stuff he'd seen in the tanks on the way in was Hist Sap, and she'd been trying to separate the active ingredients from it. He didn't understand much of it, not being trained as an alchemist, but he saw several references to potion #9, as well as a few others with promising effects. He'd have to ask her what it all meant in the morning.

That's when it struck him. Miranu and Boo were lovers! All the Minotaurs he'd seen were male, except that they weren't. Oxen, rather than bulls. Boo had been wearing that apron, so he hadn't seen any difference.

At least he'd be getting a good night's sleep without any interruptions from Miranu. He was still recovering from her cousin's attentions.