Miranu and Bucephalus

The following morning he was woken by the sound of Boo's hooves in the tunnel leading up to the exit, and the distant creak of the trapdoor's hinges.

Miranu confirmed that Boo was indeed an entire male. That's what got her attention in the first place. "They're human you know. Not just human-like, their parents are Imperials just like you."

He was shocked at that, but she explained that he probably wasn't of a royal enough bloodline to have Minotaurs in his family. And those that did wouldn't talk about it, either. But someone directly descended from Alessia and Morihaus through both parents could be born a Minotaur, if they were male, of course.

The majority were abandoned by their parents in the wilderness, after a small operation. She supposed that some didn't even get that mercy. Bucephalus was a rare find indeed.

He'd been brought to her lab under a succession of command and paralysis spells, until he could be chained to those pillars over there. She'd administered potions that she hoped would calm him, but had little success. Even when he did cease his struggles, she couldn't communicate with him.

Then there had been the incident at the Blackwood Company Headquarters, down in Leyawiin. The Fighters Guild had discovered a Hist tree in the basement and destroyed it. She'd bought the remainder of their stock of Hist Sap, and had it hauled here. If the stories about the sap, and its effects on the mind, were to be believed, this could help her find a way to cure Boo.

The raw sap was likely to cause hallucinations, or even provoke a violent frenzy, but there was a chance she could refine something more specific from the complex mixture. Her early attempts didn't produce much of any use, until she realized that all her standard alchemical methods involved heat. Distillation and especially calcination were probably destroying the very compounds she was trying to find.

She reasoned that Fire wasn't the only force she could employ. Frost would also change ingredients, and allow her to separate liquids by freezing out the less volatile ones. She'd also seen an experiment where a mage had used Shock to separate metal and air from a liquid.

Her first uses of freeze-distillation had given her some promising results, These had included a potion to tranquilize her subject, so she could remove the shackles.That had let her start to train him. He responded better to reward than to punishment, perhaps because his size made the punishment less effective. Food was only a useful reward when he was hungry, so she used others. That was one of the reasons she was keeping her laboratory a secret. Not everyone would approve of those methods, and they'd have suspected her motives.

Major improvements in his behavior got major rewards. She admitted that she was rewarding herself, too. Boo was beginning to communicate with signs, and she could read his facial expressions. This was becoming more of a collaboration than the solo effort that she'd started. It just felt right to celebrate the breakthroughs together.

He'd become used to being asked to drink strange potions, and report on their effect. Potion #9 didn't need him to use any sign language. She could see what it did right away! He was a little annoyed that she made him wait to see if the effect wore off quickly. She asked him if it made his head hurt, or feel nausea, or anything else bad. He shook his huge head, and reached for her.

It took a long time for the effects to wear off. She was glad she'd held him off for as long as she did, or she was sure they'd have injured themselves. She made a note to dilute it next time.

She probably spent longer getting the dosage just right than she should have. On the one hand, this was going to be a significant commercial product, and it would finance all her research. She needed to be careful to produce the most return on her investment.

On the other hand, it wasn't the potion she was trying to make; one that would permanently boost Boo's intelligence.

She thought she'd found one later, but it wasn't as effective as she'd hoped. Boo could speak at last, but his words were child-like and simple. She was running out of possible combinations of ingredients, at least the ones she could get in Tamriel. Even the more exotic ones from the Deadlands, such as Harrada and Bloodgrass, had proven no more useful.

Then the Champion of Cyrodiil had paid her a visit, only a few weeks ago. He'd heard about potion #9 from Tsarrina, and Falanu had directed him here. "Just like she did for you".

The reporter wondered if the Champion had to negotiate for the key the way he had, but he said nothing.

The Champion had just returned from a trip to the Shivering Isles, the realm of Sheogorath. There were ingredients there that you just couldn't get in Tamriel. She actually had a few of them already, as they'd been found on the island in the Niben Bay, and her sources had obtained some for her. She'd heard stories of others, though. Mind-altering ones called Felldew, and Greenmote. She wasn't sure if they were real, as all people coming back from the Isles were known to be insane.

The Champion assured her that they were, he'd seen them himself. He had some of the Felldew with him, and he could get some Refined Greenmote in only a few days. He warned her about the effects he knew of the raw ingredients. He didn't think they could be combined with anything. At least he didn't have the Alchemical skill to do so.

She had limited success with the Felldew. Its effects were temporary, and harmful when they wore off. That was true even when she managed to separate it and react the fractions with other ingredients.

The Greenmote, when he returned with that, was quite a different proposition. That could have permanent effects. Fatal ones, if she wasn't extremely careful.

A few rats died keeping Boo safe. The mixture that eventually worked included fractions from both drugs, and some from the Hist Sap, too. It appeared to be an ultimate Restore Intelligence potion, capable of reversing even the damage that had been done to Boo. She tried a little herself, but she had no damage to restore, and it did nothing. It didn't make the rats smart either, so there wasn't any Fortification going on.

She was glad, because it meant that Boo really was as clever as he turned out. Her theories were right, he was an Imperial in a bull-shaped body, not just a beast with hands.

But she wasn't so glad when he started to talk about having a career. She'd been planning on keeping him to herself, not on giving him his independence.

And to make it worse, they'd had that misunderstanding. He'd mentioned becoming a gigolo, and she'd totally flown off the handle. Fortunately that was when the Champion returned to see if she'd had any success. He talked to Boo, and found out what he'd really said.

Boo didn't want to become a gigolo, he was just trying to tell her that it was the only job he'd been trained for! That was doubly embarassing for Miranu, but she wanted to make amends. Of course he needed other training, and she could do some of that herself. But she could only train Alchemy, and he'd need more options than that.

She didn't like the idea of him going to the Arcane University to learn other magical skills, there were way too many pretty young girls apprenticed there, with firm breasts, and tight.... And she didn't want him wandering around Cyrodill looking for other trainers, when he could be happier here.

"Skill books, then," the Champion had suggested. "You have taught him to read, haven't you?"

She had, and she knew he liked to tinker with metal. Perhaps the Armorer skill, so he could become a Smith? Alchemy goes well with that, making better alloys for armor, and harder edges for blades. She could use some better apparatus, too, if his skill would take him there.

He had a nice little collection of books now. Five in all. With that start, he'd been able to build himself a forge and start repairing things. Soon he was making weapons and armor from scratch, and that apparatus Miranu had wanted. She could make much more of the profitable potions now.

"Oh that reminds me" she said. "I found this other compound that I want Tsarrina to try out for me. Potion # 16. It's really slippery stuff, and it cures disease, too! I'm sure she'll find a use for it!"

The reporter was more than happy to volunteer to take it there. And he really ought to report the results, too. Tsarrina would want that.

He began to compose a letter to his editor. He might not make it back the Imperial City for some time, and they'd need a first report soon. He wondered how many he'd get away with before he was ordered back.