Sigrdrifa sighed as she settled into the tub of steaming hot water, the quiet of the bathing room providing a brief haven of tranquility in her sometimes chaotic household. Piping in the hot spring water had been expensive, but it wasn't a luxury to the paladin's way of thinking, but rather medical expense to help soothe her bruises and scrapes and provide mental peace and relaxation after battle!
The herbs scenting the bath oils in the water rose around her, helping her relax, and the steaming water seemed to penetrate and unknot each muscle. The paladin laid her head back on the folded towel at the tub's edge, her arms spread along the rim, and started to doze.
Gullveig was terribly excited. She had a million questions! Who was the small one they had brought home? What was wrong with her? Why hot water... HOT WATER! Gullveig rushed back to the kitchen just in time to rescue the kettle from boiling dry, and muttered as she refilled it and set it back on the back of the stove. "I just know there's a way to create a spring driven heater that would let me serve boiling water out of a specially-insulated geothermitron tap!"
Eyeing the plumbing line that came in from the ceiling and served the kitchen sink and the bathing room next door, the gnome looked around carefully -- nope, no one else in the area! Floozwhizzlers and thermoresistors! Happily she eased her inventor's toolkit out from under the kitchen counter, and set to work laying out scraps of sheet metal and ceramic knobs, and cogs and bits of wire...
The gnome girl was giddy with the possibilities... why, she would be famous, FAMOUS! The ceramic would insulate the spigot, and the magnets and cog-driven gears would operate the small heater, and that would run by cross wiring into a droag gazing-orb to provide energy to the spiral of wire wrapping the pipe UNDER the ceramic insulation, which would heat the water to boiling just before it came out of the tap! Now all she had to do was to open the waterline and test it!
Gullveig ran her eye over the apparatus... the copper piping led in water from the hot artesian well, already quite warm, then entered into a housing where copper wire spiraled around and around, carrying power from the gazing orb. The gnomish girl had discarded the idea of a thermostat, planning to control the heating by an inlet valve responding to the elevation of the liquid-vapor interface in the housing. But it probably should be a little better insulated!
The gnome quickly figured a way to use ceramic floozgizzlers in her kit to fit around the heating elements. She used a strong cement the alchemists had invented, the solvent fumes filling the kitchen quickly and making her head spin a little. She set the jar of adhesive aside, not putting the cap on yet, then noted a droplet or two of water leaking around the join on the pipes.
"Drat that!" she exclaimed, and rummaged under the counter until she came up with a hunk of brewer's pitch she'd bought to re-pitch the beer kegs. Melt a little of that onto the joins and they'd hold fine!
Finally all was in readiness! "TA DA!" she shouted, as she reached to turn the water on to the line.... After a few seconds, she unsquinted her eyes and looked. "IT WORKS! I AM GENIUS!" she carolled in glee, dancing around the kitchen.
Now, after all that inventive energy, a gnome deserved a nice hot cup of tea and a rest in her thinking chair! Gullveig pulled down a nice mug, and went to her new tap and dispensed bubbling hot water into the cup, setting in a teabag to steep.
She retreated to her chair and began mentally composing her speech for the Tinmizer Memorial Inventor's Convention - for naturally they'd invite her to discuss such a significant innovation! She was also calculating how to begin some wholesale assembly process once she announced her new work... and she'd be rich! Richer than anyone, even Mephita!
Unnoticed, the tap had not shut off on the heating as planned, and the copper wires glowed ever redder. As the temperature climbed to more than ten times the heat of boiling water, the wire started to melt and a section snapped through, and the whole coiled spring of red-hot copper coil began unspooling, the end striking the cast iron stove. The copper pipes had begun to soften and sag as well. And as the wire hit the stove, energy from the droag orb arced like lightning, igniting the solvent fumes rising from the alchemist's cement and setting the pitch ablaze!
The explosion of the fumes blasted Gullveig and her thinking chair backwards. The boiling water tap cracked off and hot water started spraying the kitchen floor, while flames from the burning pitch climbed up the wall, sparking a second explosion from the open jar of adhesive, and catching the bulletin board and cookbooks on fire.
At the same time, the water line that had softened bent, and the pressure of the water down that line began to build, causing the plumbing into the bathing chamber to knock and thrum. Within seconds the pressure of the water caused a gigantic geyser to erupt from the tub and toilet simultaneously, and Sigrdrífa woke nearly drowning.
Freydísa heard the explosion, and heard the little cook screaming. She must be injured! Dísa sprinted down the stairs, her hands already coruscating with the green light of healing power. As she rounded the corner, the fire lit the space in garish colors, water sloshed around her ankles, and Gullveig, her face streaked with black and her hair singed around the edges of her hood, eyebrows nearly completely gone, was hopping up and down and screaming wildly.
"Where are you hurt, stand still!" the healer asked urgently.
"I AM GENIUS! DID YOU SEE THAT?!!! It's the perfect ignition mechanism for a Dreadnever type flying machine! No dragon gasbags! LOOOOK!!!!" Gullveig danced and spun, giddy in excitement, completely unharmed but for a little singed hair.
The bathing room door crashed open and a flood of water poured out. Hulda, who had scrambled to the top of the work bench when the chaos began, gaped in amazement at the naked and scalded Halasian woman washed out of the room in the flood, spitting and cursing vilely in her native tongue. "IS NOTHING SACRED??!!!!" she roared ...
Sigrdrífa splashed over towards the kitchen and seized up a floating bucket, dumped the last of the potatoes out of it, and used it to scoop up water from the flood and hurled a bucketful into the flames. With her size and strength, the flames climbing the wall were quickly extinguished.
Then she turned a baleful eye upon her cook. She started to open her mouth to say something, but all that came out was an inarticulate snarl.
Gullveig backed a few steps, colliding with Freydísa. "Cogmizzenators and terawatt lasers, I am in for it!" the gnome realized with an awful sinking feeling.
Drífa tried again. Her face was going red, her fists clenched, and with visible effort she ground out, "GOING... FOR ... CLOTHES..." Then she stomped away heading upstairs with what shreds of dignity she could muster. She knew she was too angry to deal justly with the situation.
Hulda kilted her robes up into her belt and hopped down from the bench to survey the damage. "Well, we'd best start getting this mess cleaned up." The other women nodded and set about rescuing items from the water and setting them atop counters and benches.
A Few Weeks Later...
Sigrdrífa looked up from her book as the front door blew open in a gust of spring's blustery breeze. Framed in the doorway was one of the youngsters of her house, Gullveig, who she'd employed out of pity for a small and very lonely gnome girl panhandling in Qeynos Harbor.
Wisps of blonde hair straggled out from under the gnome's cap, almost obscured by an enormous armload of knives and swords and axes the small woman staggered beneath. Drífa leapt up a moment too late to save the parquet floor as Gullveig dropped the load of cutlery with a resounding crash.
Eyeing the dings and scrapes and dents in the expensive floor, Drífa glared balefully at Gullveig, who seemed not to notice the heat of the stare. "I got SUCH a bargain!" she chortled as she gathered up an armful of the smaller knives. "I got it ALL! AND I got the only copy of the formula!"
The tall Halasian woman found her fists bunching up at her sides and her blood pressure rising. She forced herself to take slow, deep breaths, then in a calm and quiet voice she asked, "And what, exactly, do you think you will be doing with all of this? I mean, AFTER you have sanded the parquet here, refinished it, and rewaxed it?"
Gullveig looked up wide-eyed, rather like a deer in the Thundering Steppes caught in the incandescing light of a wizard's fireball just before implosion. "Uh...."
"And," continued the paladin, tucking a stray lock of silver hair back behind an ear. "Did I, or did I not expressly forbid you to perform any more experimentation or tinkering in this house after you destroyed the kitchen, bathroom, and the entire downstairs workroom to the tune of several hundred thousand gold in repairs?"
Gullveig dropped the items in her arms with another crash, evoking another wince from the householder. "OH NO! You mean you thought? Of course I wouldn't! You see, it's all about this flogisthon enchantment and how the necromancer created a target-specific thaumaturigical limitation on the physical cutting properties of the molecules of the metal edge and then imbued that in a permament way!"
Drífa could almost feel her eyes crossing. "Necromancer? flogging? what?"
"Oh, he's a gnome like myself. Well, not like myself, since he's a necromancer and fundamentally a bad person, but he's VERY clever. But not as clever as me, since I got it ALL out of him for three gold! And the process has wide commercial applications that such a research-minded fellow would NEVER see, but I think the Tinmizer Memorial Inventotron Conference will..."
"STOP!" the Halasian roared. The shout echoed through the large house and activity stopped everywhere, and curious apprentices and household members peeked around corners to see what had stirred up Lady Sigrdrífa.
When the silence following the bellow had stretched to a full two minutes. Drífa asked again, in that frighteningly calm way, "What, exactly -- in sentences of no more than 5 words, -- are you doing with this junk?"
Gullveig's mouth opened and shut several times, then she started couning on her fingers. Finally she looked up and said, "It's for razor blades. For shaving. They won't cut skin."
"And how does a necromancer fit into that? And shaving with an axe?" the Halasian asked, still quietly enunciating each word with care. Gullveig started to open her mouth but Drífa interjected, "In short sentences, please!"
"The necromancer was trying for weapons that would only hurt zombies and skeletons and such. But these don't work for that - these only will cut dead tissue! It's such a breakthrough! And he didn't know what he had, why..." Gullveig's speech had increased in pace and fervor until Drífa's sharply raised hand brought her to an abrupt halt again.
"Aren't zombies and skeletons dead? Why don't these work if they cut dead tissue?" the tall woman inquired, looking as though a headache was creeping in behind her eyes as she spoke.
"Because they're not DEAD, they're UNDEAD!!!" Gullveig chortled. "He thought it was a total failure, and of course from his perspective if you wanted a ghoul-killing axe then these would be a total failure but he didn't have the SCOPE of vision that I applied to the problem, and we'll all be RICH!"
Up the hand came again, stopping the increasing torrent of words.
"And why do you think these things are valuable then? Explain SIMPLY!" she reminded her young cook and would-be inventor.
"Hair is dead. Fingernails are dead. Beards are dead. Skin's alive. You see?" Gullveig was hopping from foot to foot in her excitement. Sigrdrífa just had a pained look as her headache increased.
"You can make SHAVING RAZORS with this process that just cut hair and never dull or nick or cut your skin!" Gullveig explained, shaking her head at the poor slow barbarian in front of her.
Slowly the idea worked its way through Drífa's head, and even she could see that the gnome might indeed have come up with a really useful and innovative idea for once.
"The rule for no experimentation in this house still stands!" she said firmly, noting the sudden dismay passing over her young ward's face. "But I will rent you a space where you can work, and I will finance the process of developing your commercial prototype."
The sun rising over the desert of Ro couldn't have been brighter than Gullveig's face lighting up.
"But AFTER you fix the dings in my floor!" Drífa called after Gullveig, who had already begun skipping around the room in her excitement.
Gullveig's Inventor's Loft
Sigrdrífa checked out the Lion's Mane Inn carefully before allowing this project to go forward. The building itself sits right on the canal... useful in case of accidental fires. Inside, the walls are stone as you go up to the apartments.
View from the doorway. Because Drífa didn't want to be awakened some night by the Queen's Investigators or the monitors of the Concordium after some flaming "mishap", she invested in having in a team of mechano-magical engineers, closely supervised (for an exorbitant sum) by Concordium and Royal safety inspectors. They established a flameproof tinkering area that hopefully will hold!
Still, gnomes being what they are and Murphy being a drunken barstid, Drífa insisted on the installation of a bunker, protected by massive stone blocks and sandbags. Gullveig is under strict instructions to be in the bunker when conducting any distillations with volatiles, projects involving coal, saltpeter and sulphur, and other dangerous activities. "Barrels!" Gullveig muttered. "Got to get me some barrels to store black powder!"
Inside the bunker is a rough padded mat (the better to fall on if mishaps happen out in the lab) and Gullveig's office and planning area. Is she planning world conquest or just a Norrath-wide distribution system for her new ouchless shaving razors? You decide.
While waiting for trademark treaties from other cities and various commercial documents, Gullveig has been filling her time building The Contraption. Overhead cams, dual exhaust manifolds, a mechanomagical smoke stack, dual stick shift levers, steering and a roll bar are provided.
Gullveig is still seeking a Desert Palace Chair - she expects it will make a good driver's seat!
Miss Drífa provided her ward with a fish bowl she thought would satisfy the youngster's gnomish tastes. It is a pretty thing, isn't it? And you know, Gullveig thinks can set up automated plumbing with a self-cleaning grate that would really make life a lot more elegant for Mr. Octopus!
After the bustle and clangor of the worksroom, Gullveig's bedroom retreat is a place of calm and rest.
One window holds a Shrine to Solusek Ro... insulated -- as Drífa insisted! -- to keep the Eternal Flame away from anything flammable.
The Wantia bed and gnomish artwork complete the decor of this retreat.
Originally posted here, this was so enjoyable that we wanted to make sure that everyone saw just how talented our community members are!