Romance Versus Relics Chapter 7
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  • 1.
    Welcome to chapter seven. In this chapter, things get a bit 'hairy' inside the Landgraab Chateau for Nellie. You see, this house eventually had me wanting to rip my out because I couldn't figure out a way to get Nellie past some of those traps. I wanted her to finish her mission so that I could get on with story, but she was blocked at every turn…lol. So, I ended up cheating her through by teleportation in some places, so that's why you may not see how she got from point A to point B in a lot of instances. Well, that is all I will say here, because I don't want to say anything to further spoil the story for you. Please enjoy the story and thank you again for taking the time to read.
    Note: I have played way further in the game than the place these chapters depict. Therefore, I may have memory lapses on some of the actual events during the adventures. So, if you have played these and I have gotten something wrong, just attribute that to my bad memory and realize that this is just a story and I will use my imagination where memory fails . . . lol. Thanks again for reading . . . and for understanding.

    The front stoop suddenly burst into flames as Nellie drew close enough to step onto the first step. Gasping in horror, she took a step backward and gazed at the fire traps that had suddenly appeared out of nowhere. She would have to find another way in, so she moved around to the back of the house.

    Something struck Nellie as very odd about the large boulders surrounded by a flower bed. It was not exactly the sort of lawn decorations prominent folk like the Landgraabs usually displayed. Without hesitation, she brought out the mighty Axe of Pangu and reduced the large boulders to rubble.

    Unsurprised to find an underground space beneath the boulders, Nellie started slowly down the staircase. Her heartbeat quickened in excitement as she wondered what she may find down there.

    Her heart then sank in disappointment when she was faced with a locked door, and had no means of opening it. Feeling slightly disheartened, she made her way back up the stairs and searched around by the back entrance to the house.

    She was overjoyed to find a hidden switch in a hole in the flowerbed by the back walkway. It disabled the fire traps she had noticed in front of the back door. Now she would be able to enter the chateau!

    The first thing Nellie noticed was evidence of more traps in the floor of the hallway to her left. She turned the corner and moved closer to inspect the area and her mere presence triggered the traps into popping up into full view.

    Nellie kneeled down to inspect and then tried to disable them, but to no avail. The traps were too sophisticated for her to figure out, so she turned back and entered the room directly across from the back door.

    The room seemed to be an entry hall of some sort that led only to an upstairs portion of the large house, because it contained nothing but a staircase leading up. Nellie, in her excitement for discovery, took the stairs two at time until she reached the first landing.

    There, she found a treasure box which contained only a keystone. She quickly stuffed the keystone into her bag and headed up the stairs to the next landing. What she found there was a locked a door. Her brow furrowed in a thoughtful frown, but then her lips curved into a smile.

    Her eyes twinkled in delight as she reached into her bag for the keystone she had found below and quickly inserted it into the slot. When she next turned the knob, the door swung open and she stepped inside.

    It was a strange room, split into two hallways. To Nellie's left there was the most beautiful statue she had ever seen. To her right, there were more statues and a couple of tables with artifacts on them, which is what caught Nellie's eye, so she went in that direction. As soon as she had lifted one from the table and tucked it away, something happened that flooded her mind and heart with panic and fear

    She became trapped where she stood by two fierce electricity traps! Nellie urgently searched around for a way to escape, but there was none. Later, Nellie would learn from a fellow explorer that all she had to do was place something else back on the table and the electricity traps would be disarmed. The lack of that knowledge forced Nellie to use the one precious bag of escape dust she had purchased from Jiang Lu shortly after almost being hopelessly lost in the tomb beneath The Temple of Heaven.
    Nellie opened the bag and tossed it contents on the floor and, instantly, she was whisked away and found herself standing in front the base camp. It was just as well, she thought. She was exhausted and needed sleep anyway.

    As she was cleaning up after a quick breakfast the next morning, Nellie was more determined than ever to learn the secrets of Landgraab Chateau and discover the whereabouts of the keystone that would unlock the Dragon Cave.

    Her first stop was the market, so that she could stock up on more supplies for her journey into the foreboding manor. After finding and purchasing all the normal wares she needed, she went in search of the special merchant, who she knew would be somewhere nearby. She finally found him lurking around the book store.

    " Bonjour, Madame" he said with a friendly smile. " My name is Francois Lambert. How may I help you this fine morning?'
    Nellie introduced herself and then got right to the point, " I really need some escape dust. You see, I used my only bag last night and it really came in handy. I think it saved my life!" The Frenchman merely shook his head and smiled at her sadly. He told her he was sorry, but he could not sell her any escape dust until she had earned more Visa points. He remained obstinate and would not budge, no matter how much Nellie pleaded. Dejected, but not defeated, Nellie left him and quickly made her way back to the Landgraab house.

    This time, she decided to look around the grounds keeper's shack and discovered a stairway leading down. Nellie carefully descended the stairs to investigate.

    The tiny room was filled with bales of hay, but she did find an artifact and a heart-shaped keystone which could come in handy. Nellie went back up and then around to the front of the shack.

    The keystone came in handy sooner than she had thought it might. She quickly inserted it into place and peaked inside the shack. The only things she saw were the normal things most living spaces contained, a kitchen area, a bed, and a small bathroom. This is a good discovery, Nellie thought, as she closed the door and went back toward the main house.

    This time, she discovered a stairway leading down just to the side of the house. All she found there was some chests with various relics. After collecting them, she went back into the main house. Without thinking, she started down a hallway toward a door.

    White hot pain suddenly racked her body as she was caught up in a ferocious electrical current. Although her mind reeled erratically from the intense, agonizing pain, she mentally scolded herself for having been so careless. She should have known better than to move ahead without checking carefully for traps by now!

    Nellie was seriously scorched and frightened, and in horrible pain, but she drank a bottle of liquid courage she had purchased from Francois Lambert and made an attempt to disarm the next trap, but it was useless. She found her way back out of the house and headed toward the grounds keeper's shack.

    It was not The Ritz, but the accommodations suited Nellie's needs perfectly. After taking a nice cool bath to freshen up and soothe her burns, she snuggled into the tiny bed for a much-needed rest.

    Nellie was happy to learn that there was still food stocked in the shack and she helped herself to a quick breakfast. Determined not to allow last night's fiasco to deter her from her mission, she made her way back to the house, not bothering to change from her night clothes.

    Having learned a valuable lesson the night before, Nellie carefully checked for traps before bursting down hallways without looking. Finding an obvious trap next to a staircase, Nellie pushed a statue over it to disarm it so that she could pass. Before moving on, Nellie decided to change back into her day clothes because she had no desire to ruin her pajamas today.

    The upstairs was loaded with traps as well. Nellie inspected them, but could not figure out a way to disarm them, but she pressed on as best she could and finally found a way around. Nellie passed through several doors and traversed a few hallways. She was beginning to feel the house would go on forever.
    Eventually, Nellie found a secret door. After opening it, she passed through several more doors and hallways. Finally, she came to a door and the tiny hairs on the back of her neck seemed to stand up. Her adventurer's intuition told her she had found that for which she had been searching. She flung open the door and smiled.

    At long last, she had found the missing keystone to the Dragon Cave, she was certain! She opened the chest, scooped out her treasured prize, and then got as far away from Landgraab Chateau as possible, as quickly as she could!

    Though Nellie was anxious to take the keystone back to China to present it to Jiang Lu, she still had a few days left in France. She had not completely lost all her sense of frugality, therefore she did not like the idea of wasting a trip for which she had already had already paid, so she decided to hang around and do a bit of sightseeing around the village before leaving.
    While she was getting ready to leave base camp for the day, she received a phone call from Edith More, asking Nellie to please visit the general store to discuss an urgent matter with her as soon as possible. As Ellie stood outside the shop, she wondered what could have worked the general merchant up into such a tizzy.

    Nellie had just barely stepped into the shop when the woman rushed up to her, speaking in a breathless, excited tone. " Ah, thank you for coming. Are you prepared? I need you to do a bit of underground exploration for me. You should never go adventuring without the proper supplies, though! I have already given you some dried food, essential for staying nourished while you explore the depths of any tomb. In addition, you should always bring a tent with you. As it happens, my humble store sells both tents and dried food, so you should peruse my wares when we are done speaking.
    Now, to your mission . . . I need you to head up to the old Celtic Ruins and retrieve something I lost there while exploring several days ago. I dropped it in a hole in the floor and didn't realize until I was halfway home! You will know when you find it. Now go, I eagerly await your victorious return!"

    As she stood gazing at the underground space she was about to enter, Nellie could not suppress a giggle when she thought about how excitable Edith More had seemed over her lost article. Why all the mystery? What could it be that Edith sought so desperately and how could she be sure that Nellie would know when she found it? A more serious expression returned to Nellie's face as she began to slowly descend the stairs.

    The first thing Nellie encountered when reaching the bottom of the stairs was a pile of rubble that needed clearing. After making sure of her direction, Nellie moved on and had to bring out the mighty axe once again to clear some more rubble out of her path.

    Then there were several floor panels which she stood upon to trigger them in order to open some locked doors.

    As Nellie stood upon each one and had the satisfaction of doors opening upon new rooms to explore, she wished that everything in life were that simple. A jolt of pain stabbed through her heart as Ho Sung's handsome face flashed briefly in her mind. God help her, but despite the fact he was a married man, she still missed him terribly and wanted him by her side. As she realized this, her feelings of guilt came crashing down upon her again. " Stop it!" she scolded herself harshly, her voice echoing from the walls in the empty, cavernous room. Nellie shook her head to clear it and continued forward with the task at hand.

    While inspecting a wall she was sure contained a hidden door, Nellie thought about China so far away and she smiled, thinking about Zhan, and wondering what he may doing at that very moment. Though she struggled against it, her thoughts turned back to Ho Sung and she wondered where he was and what he was doing. Did his thoughts ever turn to her the way hers drifted to him, or had he moved on with his life and had completely forgotten about her?
    Finally, the door she was pushing on swung slowly open. Nellie's eyes widened and a sharp gasp escaped from between her lips at what she saw.

    Finding evidence of human remains in the tiny room behind the hidden door left Nellie feeling unnerved and a bit shaky, so she took a moment to study the map Edith More had given her. She had no desire to end up getting lost like the poor fellow behind her obviously had long ago.
    Once Nellie made sure she was heading in the right direction, she stepped into the small room, making sure to avoid the poor fellow who gotten himself trapped in there, and took everything of value.

    In the next room, she encountered more piles of rubble either blocking her way, or hiding relics beneath them. Once again, the mighty Axe of Pangu took care of the problem quickly and efficiently.

    Her eyes lit up and sparkled with glee when she spotted a heart-shaped keystone on a table in one room. She knew just where to use it!

    When she slid the keystone into place, the door opened into a large room, and from the looks of it, there were a couple of large stone statues that needed to be moved around before she could continue. Suddenly, Nellie felt exhaustion settle into her body and she knew she did not have the strength to go any further tonight, so she pitched her tent in order to get some much-needed rest.

    As she lay alone in her tent, Nellie reached in her bag and wrapped her hand around the keystone that would unlock the Dragon Cave for her and longed desperately to be back in Shang Simla. The place had become more like home to her than her own home back in Sunset Valley. They say home is where the heart is and her heart thrived in China, where her best friends lived. Her heart especially belonged to one man, even though he had crushed it beneath his heel like a cockroach.
    She spent every waking moment trying not to think about him, but the nighttimes were the hardest. As she slipped into a restless sleep, her last conscious thought was the memory how wonderful it had felt to have her body lying so close to his and she longed to have Ho Sung's strong arms wrapped tightly around her now, offering her comfort and snuffing out the loneliness she felt in her heart, as well as her fear.

    Nellie rose, packed up her tent, and began surveying her surroundings. She saw a place where she was certain a hidden staircase lay hidden. Her gaze then turned to the statues. Instinct told her she needed to move them, but to where? The young woman then noticed a hole in the wall she had missed the night before and went to inspect it. Inside, she found a hidden switch that caused two floor panels to become visible on the floor near the statues. She smiled and moved toward the first one.


    As she pulled the first statue into place over the floor panel, Ellie was glad she had taken the time to rest before attempting the task. It would have been a much harder feat to accomplish in such an exhausted state of body and mind.

    " Ugh" she grunted as she began pulling the second statue, " there has to be a better way!" Nellie paused for a breath, and then was satisfied when the statue finally slid into place and she heard the grinding of the staircase opening up into view.

    Nellie's pulse raced as she began to descend the stairs, wondering what lay below. Her adventurous nature made her always feel ready for adventure, but the adrenaline rush from the element of danger she could be facing sometimes became almost overwhelming.

    It seemed that Nellie had stepped down into a maze of tall hedges. As she wandered around, she found several relics and other useful items around certain corners, including some keystones she was sure would be useful someday. After collecting all she could find, Nellie made her way back to where she had started and entered the room directly across from the stairs.

    As Nellie read the note scrawled on the wall, a jolt of fear crept up her spine. What if the stairs had closed behind her as well and she became trapped down here forever like the poor fellow on the floor? Suddenly, panic rushed into her heart and she ran from the room to check the staircase. Breathing a sigh of relief to see the stairs still passable, Nellie moved toward the only door that she had not yet entered. There was another statue which had to be dragged onto a floor panel before the door could be opened.
    After doing so, the door opened and Nellie stepped inside.

    Nellie was stunned when she reached into a hole and found a baseball; a baseball? That crazy French woman had sent her on this adventure to retrieve a lost baseball! The young woman shook her head in disbelief. She had a couple more days to spend on her first trip to France and she gets sent on a mission to retrieve an old baseball when she could have been spending some time relaxing and enjoying some of the sights.
    Nellie sighed, stuffed the ball into her bag, and made her way back to where Edith More was awaiting her return.

    " Ah, Madame" the woman exclaimed breathlessly, " you have returned my precious baseball! I thank you from the depths of my heart. It is lucky, you see. I would never dare go into a place like those ruins without it at my side. That is why I had to pay you to do it for me. Speaking of payment, here are some Ancient Coins for your trouble."
    " Thank you" Nellie said with a smile, although what she really wanted was to throttle the crazy woman. She marveled at the way Edith More caressed the ball in her hands, almost like a lover. The two women said their goodbyes and Nellie headed back to base camp. She planned on visiting the museum in town the next day before returning to Shang Simla with the keystone.

    " Ah, but you are a beautiful woman!" a man said in a thick French accent as he stepped between Nellie and the exhibit she was admiring. The museum was filled with interesting artifacts and, until now, Nellie had been thoroughly enjoying her leisurely stroll through the large building. Irritation showed on her face as she gaped at the man with wide eyes. Lowering her head, she mumbled a thank you and turned to walk away, but the man was not going to give up so easily.
    " Would you care to go to dinner with me?" he said at her back. " I know the loveliest restaurant in town. There is music and dancing. Afterward perhaps we could . . ."

    " What is the matter with you?" Nellie hissed as she whirled around to face him, cutting off his words mid-sentence. " Can't you see I'm not interested? Men! What is the matter you anyway? Can a girl not enjoy being out alone without some guy accosting her? What's your story? Do you have wife or a girlfriend waiting for you somewhere, but instead you're out looking for a taste of action on the side?"
    The young woman paused for breath and continued, " Not every attractive woman you see is looking for male companionship, you know! Trust me, if I were looking for it, you would know! I . . ." Her voice trailed away when she realized that people were beginning to stare. The stunned expression on the man's face deepened the embarrassment she felt at causing such a scene.

    The shocked Frenchman recovered quickly and found his voice. " I . . . I do apologize, Madame, for being so forward. I did not intend to offend you so." He offered her a wavering smile. " It is just that when I see a woman to whom I am attracted, I must do what I can to meet her. In answer to your question: no, I do not have a female companion waiting in the wings. I am on my own and have been for quite some time."
    As he spoke, Nellie's heart softened and she felt horrible about the way she had behaved. It was not at all like her to be so rude and nasty.

    " I . . . I'm sorry" Nellie murmured in a small voice. She felt her cheeks flush hotly from embarrassment. " I didn't mean to be so . . . so rude! It's just that I have been a bit on edge lately. I guess not having much time to relax and spend time on myself is taking its toll on me." Besides the fact that men have been nothing but trouble for me lately, she added in her mind. Not wanting the man to think all Americans were rude, obnoxious people, she smiled and offered him her hand. " By the way, my name is Nellie Blye" she said quietly. " Even though it may not have seemed so, it is nice to meet you."

    The suave Frenchman took her hand, but instead of a handshake, he brushed his lips lightly across the back of it in a way that caused goose bumps to break out all over Nellie's body. " It is my pleasure to meet you, Madame" he said smoothly with smile that showed his perfect teeth. " Again, I do apologize for my impulsive behavior. I do tend to act without thinking on occasion." He smiled again. " I am Gustav Delven. Here is my card. If you are ever visiting Champs Les Sims again, feel free to look me up. The offer of dinner stills stands." He smiled again, and walked away, leaving Nellie alone, once again, with her thoughts.