Romance Versus Relics Chapter 10

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Romance Versus Relics Chapter 10

  1. 1. <br />Welcome to chapter ten! I hope you are enjoying Nellie's adventures so far. I'm having a lot of fun exploring with Nellie and writing about it to share her experiences with you. I can only hope you feel the same while reading it. Thank you, once again, for taking this journey with us!<br /> <br />Nellie stood outside the fence at Gaston Dutiel's house gazing across his garden at the strange walled-in area he had described to her. She breathed deeply, enjoying the fragrance of the beautiful mixture of flowers planted there. Out of curiosity, she entered the gate, strolled through the garden, and walked all around the brick wall. She used her expertise in finding hidden doors to inspect every inch of the wall and she could find no secret entrance. <br /> <br />She decided that Monsieur Dutiel's idea of starting in the basement was a good one after all, so she went to the door and rang the bell. After several moments of waiting and ringing again, no one answered. Nellie sighed in exasperation. The Relic Merchant had given to her the key to his basement, but not the front door. How was she supposed to get in if no one was there to open the door?<br />Almost agitated enough to take the key and tell the man to shove it, she turned and started back down the walkway, almost mowing over a young boy returning from school. " Bon Jour, Mademoiselle" the child smiled up at her, startling Nellie out of her frustration. " I am Remy." <br /> <br />" Hello" the young woman smiled back. The boy's good nature and warm attitude went a long way to soothing Nellie's frustrations of a few moments before. What is the matter me, anyway? She thought, a bit ashamed of herself. It was not like her to be so ill-tempered. It had been a while since she had taken any time for herself to just relax and have fun. It was beginning to get to her.<br />Nellie explained to the boy that his father had sent her there to look into the basement to investigate the strange sounds that had been coming from there, and the boy was excited to know her purpose, and was happy to let her inside the house. He told her the sounds were very disturbing and frightened him so much that he no longer was able to play down there. Nellie went inside and Remy showed her the way to the locked part of the basement, then scurried quickly back up the stairs as if the devil himself were hot on his tail!<br /> <br />The door in question led off of what appeared to have been made into a playroom, with a foosball table and some other entertainment items. Gaston Dutiel was obviously doing quite well for himself and his family. Nellie moved toward the door and inserted the key the Relic Merchant had given to her. The door opened and Nellie stepped inside.<br /> <br />" Oh great" Nellie groaned when she saw a door locked with chains and several statues in the room. After looking around for a switch to open the door, the only unexamined place was behind the statues, so she moved toward them and pulled out the center one so she could get behind it.<br /> <br /> She finally realized she needed to pull the wall lantern in order to gain access into the next room.<br /> <br />Once inside, there was another statue which needed to be pushed onto a floor to trigger the opening of the next door. Once the door opened, Nellie stepped eagerly inside and stopped for a moment, her eyes wide with wonder.<br /> <br />The young woman was fascinated by the fact that all this was beneath a family's home and they were unaware of it. Nellie seemed to be standing in an underground chamber that resembled something you would see in a park, or a mall. As she moved further into the space, she saw something to her right that caught her eye.<br /> <br />There was a switch that opened a hidden door she had not noticed on her right as she had passed by it. She stood and walked back the way she had come.<br /> <br /> Hidden behind the secret door, were relics and a chest. Nellie quickly nabbed them and then left the room to continue her investigation.<br /> <br />The room beyond where she had found the hidden switch contained nothing but a flowerbed and a staircase, which Nellie promptly ascended.<br /> <br />Nellie discovered a secret garden and a gravestone! She was stunned and could only stop and stare for several long moments. The young woman was also confused. How could a garden being here explain the noises the family had been hearing? Deciding not to make herself crazy by thinking about it for too long, she began to search for another way out.<br /> <br />Finally, she noticed a floor panel and when she stood on it, it revealed a secret door along one wall of the room. Nellie had opened a door in the strange walled-in area of Gaston Dutiel's property! She immediately hurried back to tell the Relic Merchant what she had found.<br /> <br />" Fantastic" the Relic Merchant exclaimed, " I love the idea of a secret garden on my property! Thank you so much for your help. If I ever need any more help, I will be sure to look to you!" Just then, Nellie's phone began to ring and she excused herself to answer it. <br />" This is Francois Lambert" the voice on the other end of the line said. Nellie wondered why the Special Merchant would be calling her, but before she had a chance to ask, he continued, " I am an avid amateur historian, with my specialty being the local history of Champs Les Sims. The thesis of my book is that the delicious beverage, Nectar, was invented here thousands of years ago by Jean Necteaux. I would very much appreciate it, Mademoiselle Blye, if you could interview Colette Bonnet for any information concerning our history and then report to me." <br /> <br />Colette was very cooperative and told Nellie all she wanted to know. " Thank you so very much for all your help" Nellie smiled. " I truly find all this history absolutely fascinating!" As Nellie walked away, she had a strange feeling she was being watched by a set of eyes which did not belong to Colette Bonnet. She shivered and glanced around, but saw no one.<br />" Don't be silly!" she berated herself with a nervous laugh. Now she really felt as if she needed to take a break. It seemed her mind was playing tricks on her.<br /> <br />Nellie quickly went back to the Market and found the Special Merchant loitering around the bookstore. When she told him everything Colette Bonnet had told her, his face lit up with excitement.<br />" This is wonderful news!" he exclaimed breathlessly. " Your interview revealed that Admiral Landgraab was also studying the history of Nectar nearly sixty years ago, and that he may have notes about what he learned." <br /> <br />Nellie had to suppress a giggle at how animated the normally stiff Frenchman had become. He was like a child opening presents on Christmas morning until he paused and then continued in a more somber fashion. " Unfortunately, Landgraab was a rampant conspiracy theorist and worrywart, and his home is shut up tighter than Napoleon's tomb." He paused to fumble in his pocket for a moment. " Take this key to his library and try to find the papers. It should be near the front of his home. Please . . . be careful!" <br />Nellie reluctantly reached out and took the key. No one had to tell her what a death trap the Landgraab house could be.<br /> <br />Nellie was not exactly thrilled about the prospect of entering the Landgraab Chateau again, but she was pretty sure she had seen a glimpse of the library door on one of her previous visits. As she pulled up to the front of the house, she noticed the fire traps out front were still going strong and she marveled, for a moment, at what the fuel cost of that would be.<br /> Parking her rented scooter out front, she quickly hopped off and made her way around the house to the back entrance, which she knew was safe. She went straight through to the front where she could see the fire traps blazing out front, turned right and walked around the staircase.<br /> <br />Soon, she was standing outside the doors she knew must lead to the library. She inserted the keystone and the doors unlocked. Nellie was uncharacteristically nervous as she stood outside the double doors. What traps lay in waiting for her on this visit to the estate? She took a deep breath, released it slowly, and then stepped cautiously through the doors. <br /> <br />The first thing she encountered was a plaque with an odd phrase etched into it. " What is that supposed to mean?" she wondered as she gazed at it for several long moments. She had heard the phrase before, but what did it have to do with her mission? Nellie merely smiled and shook her head before turning to survey the rest of her surroundings.<br />The room to her right seemed to be a sitting room or lounge of some sort. The room to her left was the library. <br /> <br />On the far wall, Nellie spied a chest she felt sure held the papers she sought, but it was protected by traps. Nellie tried to disarm them, but was unable, so she carefully made her way around them. She breathed a sigh of relief when she had made it safely across and was standing in front of the chest.<br /> <br /> The chest was where the papers were hidden, so Nellie snatched them up quickly and left to take them to Francois Lambert.<br /> <br />" Blast that old coot!" he exclaimed after glancing at the papers. " Landgraab had these translated into some old military code. Curse his incessant obsession with security!" He sighed heavily and continued in a calmer tone, " I refuse to allow Admiral Landgraab's code get the best of me. Gaston Dutiel is a well-known cryptanalyst. In fact, Gaston deciphered the legendary Vaughan Cipher, which stumped adventurers for years." He paused for a moment and smiled at the young woman. " Please . . . take the Nectar Papers to Gaston Dutiel for translation." <br /> <br />" Hmm, yes, Landgraab's code is a bit tricky, but not too difficult" Gaston said thoughtfully as the studied the papers. " Unfortunately, the old man lacked ingenuity. Perhaps enthusiasm and vigilance sapped that part of his brain?" Gaston chuckled. " Nevertheless, I have cracked the code!" After jotting down some notes, he handed the papers back to Nellie. " Take these back to Francois, along with the deciphering key. This should give him all the information he needs to complete is research on Nectar. Please have him send me a copy of his finished report." <br />Nellie turned to go, but Gaston stopped her. " Wait, I have one more favor to ask of you" he said with a nervous smile. " The noises coming from the Secret Garden have gotten worse since your investigation. If you have time, could you please investigate and find a way to stop them?" <br /> <br />" Ha! I knew Gaston Dutiel could crack Landgraab's code!" the Special Merchant proclaimed triumphantly. " I win again, old man! I can prove, without any doubt, that Jean Necteaux created Nectar centuries ago. Do you realize we are standing at the birthplace of Nectar this very second? I can now finish my book and, perhaps, move from amateur historian to professional! Thank you, Nellie Blye. I could not have done it so easily without you!" <br />Nellie graciously accepted the Ancient Coins he offered, along with an increase in her Visa points. Then she headed back to the Relic Merchant's Secret Garden to see what she could discover there.<br /> <br />As Nellie stood, mourning the lost soul who had been buried in the Secret Garden a long time ago, a chill seemed to pass over her and she shivered. She sucked in a surprised breath as an almost inaudible voice seemed to reach her ears. " My beloved, adored, Pomegranates. She loved to eat them after every meal. I believe the garden would truly be complete if Pomegranates were planted here. If this were done, I believe I would finally be able to rest." <br />Nellie's brow furrowed in thought and she whispered, " Pomegranates?" Now where was she to find Pomegranates? She had explored nearly all over town and had only seen one Pomegranate tree on the property surrounding an empty house, and it was not ready to be harvested. She sighed in agitation, " Sorry, Dear Spirit, but I cannot help you with your request!" Frustrated and feeling the need to get away, Nellie fled from Gaston's property, packed up some supplies at base camp, changed into her sporting outfit, and jogged until she found a peaceful place to rest.<br /> <br />Nellie giggled like a little girl as she ran around the field chasing butterflies. There seemed to be hundreds of them! She had jogged several miles away from base camp until she had spotted this place and decided to stop. All the work and running around doing for others was starting to overwhelm her, and she felt she needed some time to herself in order to relax and have some mindless fun. It was wonderful to feel the warm sunshine on her cheeks and the light breeze ruffling her hair.<br />She smiled as the memory of being child chasing butterflies with her parents flashed in her mind. Nellie remembered how they would tell her the names of the different species. They taught her about the insects' natural habitats and their roles in the world.<br /> <br />" My, aren't you a pretty one?" Nellie laughed as she watched a bright yellow one fluttering about in her hand. Her parents had helped to instill an interest, as well as an infatuation with the world's smaller critters. It was one of the reasons she had decided to make science her career track of choice. Plus, it gave her more freedom to travel since the reason her boss allowed her to spend so much time traveling was the fact that she had agreed to bring home as many foreign species of insects as she could find to be studied at the lab. <br />Suddenly Nellie realized where she was as she noticed the tiny pond with all the jumping fish. Somehow, she had ended up at the point where her first visit to France had led her. She was where she had found the stone for Colette Bonnet. Nellie then remembered something else. She pushed away the desire to go fishing in the pond and moved to where she had seen the staircase going into the ground. Curiosity had finally gotten the better of her, and she decided to descend the stairs and have a look around.<br /> <br />As Nellie descended into the darkness below, she thought about China and how much she missed her best friend, Zhan. She had spoken to him on the phone several times, but it just was not the same as seeing his friendly, smiling face. Thoughts of China and Zhan soon morphed into thoughts of Ho Sung and a sharp pain jabbed her heart. Would she ever be able to forget him and move on with her life?<br />During her last conversation with Zhan, she had casually mentioned the subject of Ho Sung and his disappearance, asking if there had been any news. Her friend had told her that, actually, a letter had been hand delivered to Ho Sung's sister, informing her that he was alright and not to worry. The hand-written note had been brief and vague, with no explanation as to why he had left. However, there was mention of a few matters that he needed to sort out in his mind before he could even consider returning.<br /> <br />Once underground, Nellie found herself in a place which had no lack of even more butterflies, which raised her curiosity to new levels. She played around with them a bit more in an effort to take her mind away from Ho Sung and his reasons behind leaving the way he had. The young woman was happy to know he was alive, but it cut her heart like a knife at the same time because of his lack of an attempt to explain himself to her. Nellie closed her eyes, inhaled deeply and released it slowly, and then pushed all thought of the situation out of her mind.<br />After catching several more interesting species of butterflies, she began to survey her surroundings. It seemed that in order to move on, she had a bit of statue manipulating to do first. There were five floor panels, but only four statues. She knew immediately what she had to do.<br /> <br />Moving to one statue, she grabbed it and pulled it straight forward toward two floor panels. She then pushed it into place so that it covered two at the same time. Afterward, she moved on to move the other statues into place over the remaining floor panels. Once that was done, she heard the satisfying click of a door opening in the room she had first entered.<br />Believing that she was now beginning a full-fledged exploration, she quickly changed from her jogging outfit back into her normal adventuring clothing. " That's better" she smiled as she left the room to further investigate this new underground space.<br /> <br /> Soon, Nellie found her happy place and was inspecting walls for hidden doors.<br /> <br /> She was finding chests full of ancient relic and other interesting items.<br /> <br /> The young woman began to relax and actually enjoy herself after moving through several rooms, which held many exciting discoveries.<br /> <br /> She was excited to find a staircase leading down to a deeper level. Although she was nearing exhaustion, she ventured down to have a look.<br /> <br />Nellie discovered several more doors through which to explore, but she was too tired to move on, so she set up camp for the night. Once again, as she lay alone in her tent, a brief pang of loneliness entered her heart and she wished someone were there beside her. However, she knew it was a ridiculous notion, so she tapped into the discipline she had learned through the Order of the Resolute Fist to help shove such thoughts and feelings away. Soon, she was fast asleep and dreaming of what treasures and wonders lay before her on her current adventure.<br /> <br />After a bite of dried food, Nellie was, once again, robbing chests she found in various rooms and entering through more doors into new rooms.<br /> <br />Moving another statue onto a floor panel revealed a secret door. Ellie went through it, as usual, but then stopped short with a sharp gasp.<br /> <br />Poison darts were shooting across the path ahead of her. As Nellie moved forward and stepped onto the nearest floor panel, the darts moved to a place just behind her. She soon realized that each floor panel caused the darts to shoot from different traps, so that if she got the pattern right, she was able to move forward. <br /> <br />There were holes to inspect and boulders to destroy. Nellie had to make her way back in the direction from which she had come in order to go through other doors that had been opened.<br /> <br />Nellie's excitement and curiosity grew as she got the feeling she was drawing nearer to something especially wonderful. The air in the underground cavern felt and smelled fresher and more fragrant than any other she had encountered thus far. As she pushed a statue onto a floor panel, she heard the creak of something opening in the other room.<br /> <br /> It was yet another staircase leading even further down! Nellie wondered just how deep the place could be as she started down.<br /> <br />Nellie was astonished to see everything looked lush and green in the new room. Even though it was pretty far underground, it almost seemed as though a slight breeze was present. Even the diving pool was bright green in color. She wondered what was beyond the door on the other side of the pool, but she could not reach it unless she got into the pool first.<br /> <br />She worked her way around the traps and climbed onto the edge of the pool, intending to swim over the other side so she could reach the door. Once in the pool, however, she discovered a tunnel and could not resist swimming through it to learn what lay beyond. When Nellie emerged and her body broke the surface, she could not believe her eyes!<br /> <br />Nellie thought it must be her week for discovering secret gardens, because she had just stumbled upon a big one! It was a very beautiful garden with several unusual varieties of grapes. There were lots of butterflies and other crawling insects around as well. She knew she would catch some of those before moving on, as well as harvest all the plants that were ready to be harvested.<br /> <br />The garden even contained a money tree, but Nellie would have much rather seen a Pomegranate tree ready to be harvested. She hated leaving unfinished business on an adventure, but what could she do? She was not looking forward to reporting back to Gaston Dutiel the news that he would have to live with a haunting for a while longer. As she climbed from the pool, Nellie noticed the place was riddled with steam and fire traps, and that there were several statues she would have to inspect for move ability, but that would have to wait. The hour was late and she was exhausted, so she began searching for a place to make camp for the evening.<br /> <br />She was pleased to discover a little room off to the side of the larger one that contained a ready-made campsite. All she would have to do was inspect the tent to make sure nothing bad had taken it over, and then climb inside to sleep. Nellie sucked in a sharp breath when she noticed a certain plant nearby. It was a Death Flower plant! She had heard stories about them, but had never actually seen one. She quickly harvested it and stuffed the one precious flower into her bag. Then she moved over to the fire pit.<br /> <br />As Nellie roasted her dinner of fish that evening, she thought about Gustav Delven and realized it had been three days since she had promised to have dinner with him, but had stood him up because of her museum adventure. She felt a bit guilty for not calling him since, but she had lost his number when she destroyed the card he had given her on their first encounter. Her brow furrowed in thought as she wondered what he saw in her that made him so persistent in wanting to get to know her better. She found him attractive as well, but there was nothing about him that made her want to jump through hoops for him. Why should he feel that way toward her? <br />As she cleaned up after dinner, she made a vow to herself that she would, at least, contact Monsieur Delven to apologize for seeming so rude. Just as the young woman was drifting off to sleep, visions of an encounter between her and a different young man began to play in her mind.<br /> <br />When Nellie woke, she harvested all the plants first, amazed at how well they grew in this dark underground space. There were also several nice cut stones lying around that she collected. She then moved over the row of statues and moved one onto a floor panel to unlock other doors. Soon, she had all the doors unlocked that led off the main chamber. The only one she had not gone through was a big double door that had previously been chained. None of the rest led anywhere, so she assumed that maybe it was the door leading out to somewhere else.<br /> <br />Nellie spent some time collecting some rare specimens of insects, including a sparkling butterfly, the likes of which she had never seen. She was awed by its beauty as she watched it fluttering in her open hand. <br /> <br />She decided to take the time to do a bit of excavation as well, though she found nothing but a few relics of varying degrees in value. Finally, she sighed, stood, and headed toward the double doors, which seemed to be beckoning to her from behind. When she entered the room, there was nothing there except a staircase leading up. Upon reaching the next landing, there was another staircase leading up. Finally, she reached the top and was surprised at where the stairs had taken her.<br /> <br />Part of the cavern Nellie had been exploring was apparently beneath the river, because Nellie was now standing outside some old ruins on an island in the middle of the river! The day was sunny and warm and she breathed deeply of the fresh air surrounding her. The young woman had been curious about the island she had observed in the river, and now she had discovered a way to reach it without the use of a boat. <br />There were several stones lying around, so Nellie picked up those in case they may come in handy later. She then saw a spot that looked like an interesting place to dig and she headed in that direction.<br /> <br />Nellie was humming a happy tune and thoroughly enjoying digging up Ancient Relics when her cell phone began to ring. The number it displayed belonged to Francois Lambert. With a sigh, she answered, " Hello?" <br />The man's voice was almost frantic when it reached her ears, " Good afternoon, Mademoiselle Blye. I have another proposal for you, if you are interested." He paused and when Nellie said nothing, he continued, " I am conducting research on the disappearance of Anastasia Necteaux. It is my belief that Admiral Landgraab had something to do with her disappearance. I would like to investigate this further, but I require assistance. Please come see me if you are willing and able to help me!" <br />" I'll be there as soon as I can" Nellie replied. She headed to base camp to freshen up before meeting him. Her leisure time had come to an end.<br />

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