It only took two times going through the song before I had it memorized, and while Greyson was teaching it to me, almost the entire wagon sang along. Our accompaniment kept their hands wide open or clasping something so they didn’t invoke the cantrip. I played along, knowing that I needed to help keep Nirvana’s secret.

It was funny that when we passed a wagon bus going the other way, they joined in singing the song when they heard us. The corndog song has become a part of the wagon bus culture, something I felt sure Nirvana wanted to happen. These links to the past, capturing the culture to keep it fresh and relevant, have some bearing on her plan. I don’t know how it fits together; I need more clues.

[This next stop is the one you want]

Thank you, ARC.

I dismount from the wagon, wave goodbye to those still riding, and head down the street towards the Explorer’s Association. Compared to this morning, it’s a ghost town around here. I get to the association and climb the steps. There are only a few people here, and now a woman is staffing the reception desk. I walk up to her and smile. “Good afternoon. I was told I could rent a suite of rooms at the association. Is that true?”

“Indeed it is, providing you are silver rank or better. Mr…”

“My apologies, I’m Pretty Kitty; please call me Pretty.” I smile even bigger and toss a ‘Thank You’ to ARC for selecting that name. I also show her my public screen, handing her my badge.

“Thank you, Mr. Kitty. My name is Evelyn.” She holds her hand out like a magnifying glass is in it and whispers, “Inspect.” Reviews the badge and says, “Your account is in good standing, and hands it back to me. Because you didn’t remove it from your key ring, I’m obligated to tell you that regardless of its shape, it’s like a bank key and may be placed on your key ring.”

“Oh, how clever. Thank you.”

Nodding, Evelyn continues, “I have several suites available. Do you have any preferences?”

“Do you have anything with windows that face the training yard and do not get the morning sun – and I would like to have at least two rooms in addition to the parlor and bath.”

While I am talking, she pulls a book out of the under-desk storage and starts flipping through the pages. “I have three suites on the south side facing the training yard. One is at the corner where the stairs are, and it has a small room that others have used as storage in addition to two large rooms as bedrooms. Here’s the floor plan.”

Suite 336

“What floor is it on?”

“The third, so you’ll have to climb a couple of flights of stairs,” Evelyn replies.

“That’s not a concern, except perhaps for the furniture movers. Can I change anything?”

“This suite has no load-bearing walls, and you can have any remodeling done you want, as long as you also leave a deposit of equal amount to restore the room to its original layout and finishes. We have several contractors that we can recommend who know our rules and will treat you fairly.”

“Well, I’m a little handy and would like to do the work myself.”

Nodding, she replied, “We can have it estimated when you have finished with your changes, or you could leave a five-gold deposit since that will cover just about anything you can do to the suite without breaking into the hallway or your neighbor’s rooms.”

“How much is the rent?”

“A single gold per year, and that includes weekly cleaning services of the suite. No personal laundry or dishes, though a reasonable amount of trash will be disposed of for you,” she replied.

“I am planning to use one of the rooms for research, no alchemy or explosives. If I mark that door private, can I be assured that no staff will enter it?”

“Yes, sir.”

“So I could trap it, and not be responsible for staff ignoring the warning.”

“Yes, Sir. It’s not that uncommon for residents to have things they don’t want to be disturbed. You can also flip the toggle on any of the doors to indicate that you don’t want services in your suite or any room within your suite.”

“Novel, that’s better than the hotel DND sign on the handle.”

“Thank you, Mr. Kitty. We do try,” she said with a smile. “Would you like to see the suite?”

“Yes, I would.”

She reached under the desk, pulled out a small handbell, and rang it. Soon a flesh golem, tall, skinny, grey, with a flattened nose, and in old-fashioned hotel livery (using the colors of the association) came out of a side room. “Lurch, please take Mr. Kitty to 336 and answer any questions about suite rental and services he may have.”

I laughed out loud, and asked, “I just have to know, do all the staff take on this appearance, or is it just you Lurch?”

Lurch replies, “Sir, All staff who have signed on for two or more years take on a historical, cultural appearance. Mistress Mason has also suggested that we take on the appearance of famous people who served in our roles when possible. To encourage this, the association gives us the scripts needed once we have selected a persona.”

“I think it’s wonderful! Please lead on!”

Lurch groans, just like in the TV show I remember, saying, “This way.”

As he leads me to the stairway, I speak up, “Lurch, I have a few questions, and I will not be disappointed if it is easier for you to answer outside of your persona. My first question, is how many are on staff, like you, and for shorter terms?”

“Sir, two three-story buildings make up the complex and its enclosed yard. There are approximately thirty staff members here during the day and ten at night, including the security staff; about half of us have taken on a historical appearance,” replied Lurch. “The two largest groups are maintenance, which includes housecleaning, and the security team.”

“That’s quite a few more than I would have expected.”

“Security is taken very seriously here. Many adventurers take rooms here and thieves know it. Their gear sells for good coin and while break-ins are rare, that’s only because we are diligent. You should also take care when entering and leaving the facility as the surrounding area attracts pick-pockets.”

“That’s good to know.”

“Many of our guests also trap their rooms. Management requests that you set your door marker to ‘No Service’ so you don’t endanger the staff if you do this.”

“Noted. I also wouldn’t want there to be an accident.” As we move through the building, I can see that care and effort have been taken to enhance the appearance of the building. There are fancy crown moldings, interesting tile patterns, paintings, sculptures, and other art along the hallways. Each floor has a different interior design and supporting art. “Why don’t the thieves steal the art? Many of them are beautiful and clearly show skill.”

“Sometimes they do take it. But there’s less market for it than you might think. Most long-term residents of Nirvana take up many hobbies during their time here and build skills like what you see demonstrated. It’s a point of pride that all of the art on display has been crafted by staff members and given to the association. Competition to earn a place of prominence can be fierce.

“Ah, I outed myself as a newbie, didn’t I.”

“It’s of no consequence, sir; everybody is one at some point,” he says. If you don’t mind a personal question, how are you able to afford a suite here? It’s uncommon for those recently transitioned to have enough funds to afford our services unless they are part of a group.”

I smiled at him, “A little nosey, but I don’t mind a chance to brag a little. After all, I believe you will be seeing me around quite a bit, so the story will get out eventually. My extensive knowledge of the past allowed me to identify some unknown rules around cantrips and earn a new title, Jinglemaster. I traded this knowledge to the association leadership and helped them earn the title. You can expect to see new versions of the basic and advanced manuals with many more cantrips in them; as soon as Gilden can take some time to make edits.”

As we exited onto the third floor, it was a short walk to the suite door. “Here we are, sir,” Lurch touched a token to the door and opened it.

As I entered it, I looked at the door and noticed a green strip above and below the number on the door and a peephole lens below the line, centered on the number. I pulled the door away from the wall and looked on the back to see a slider above the peephole, which I presumed would change the color of the lines to indicate no service.

It was quite nice, with smoothed, dark slate, stone floors, and walls planked with finely sanded light-colored wood that showed off the grain in a pleasant way. The bedrooms both had windowed glass doors that opened onto an expansive shared stone balcony. The doors had cleverly worked brackets for a set of iron bars that transitioned between tall handles to barring the doors closed. The many diamond-shaped windows were too small for somebody to get through if somebody broke out the glass. Additionally, the way the bars locked into position would make it near impossible for somebody on the outside to manipulate them open, even if they knew how the mechanism worked inside. It would be far easier to destroy the door to get in. Of course, with the new magic systems, this door would open to a ‘Knock’ spell without some magical reinforcement.

As I left the bedroom, I noticed a slider on the back of the door near the handle. I took a moment, moved it, and then looked at the face of the door. There was now a vertical strip of red between the doorknob and the jam. Sliding it back, matched the grain and color of the door, only inset slightly.

The Jack & Jill bathroom had a large shower stall with a built-in bench in addition to the vanity and commode. Some built-in shelves and standard conveniences like mirrors and towel bars were fixed into the places you would expect them to be. What I didn’t see anywhere was an electrical outlet. So I stepped out and asked Lurch, “I find it hard to believe that there are no electrical outlets and nobody uses electricity for anything.

Lurch smiled, “Sir, electricity is just as popular as ever. It’s just better concealed here in Nirvana. Just about every device that uses electricity has some internal battery. You can charge that battery by placing the device on any flat surface in a dwelling or business. Additionally, continual use items or ones that require greater power requirements are accommodated by placing the device where you want it. It will fix itself into position by integrating into the surface and powering up. I’m sorry to tell you that you outed yourself again, as this is a small extension of our modern world. For you not to know it, you have to be an experimental.”

“Crap. Can you keep that a secret? I really don’t want that to get around.”

“Of course, sir,” Lurch replied.

“Close the door and lock it, I would like to discuss something sensitive and make you an offer.”

While Lurch did that, I pulled a large box out of my inventory that I purchased from the halfling earlier today. I didn’t think I would use it so soon. I then began to undo latches and move components of the box around until I had shifted the sides into position to make a table and revealed the inside where some tail-accommodating, comfortable folding chairs were stored, in addition to table service for four. I placed a tea set and some cups on the table. “Teavana, A Heaven of Tea; jasmine mint.” And the fragrance filled the room. Lurch took a seat, and I poured him a cup before my own.

“Lurch, I have given too much away without trying to. Grumpy, Gilden, and Mason sent me here having great trust in the staff and knowing my needs. I’m sure they will share some details with the appropriate staff members when they visit next. Since you have learned about me a little early, I would like to offer a trade, some of your off-time in exchange for some knowledge I have that could make things easier for you and the other staff. You would be the medium of that transfer of information, so my privacy is preserved as much as possible.”

Lurch replied very seriously, “Sir, I would keep your secret just because I said so.”

“Oh, I know and believe you. I didn’t offer you anything to keep my secret, my offer is for an exchange of knowledge because you know my secret. I will be able to ask things of you that might give me away to others who don’t know my secret. I can’t lean on the association leadership while I learn my way around, but perhaps I could lean on you?”

“I understand, that’s quite acceptable. If I might suggest a few trusted others who could provide similar services, should I not be available? There are also a few staff members who should be assigned to servicing you and your rooms to help cover up anything that you leave out that could expose you,” Lurch suggests while taking a sip of the tea.

“An excellent suggestion. I’ll trust your judgment, as Grumpy and the others already have.”

Lurch brandishes his cup and says, “This is quite good.”

“I’m glad you like it; let me teach you the cantrip and a few other flavors as my first installment. Hmm. I think you should know this one too, ‘Plug it in, Plug it in.'” And an Airwick air freshener appears in my hand, no plugs on the back. Frowning, I get up, walk over to the wall, and place it against it. It sticks and activates! “Nice, that may give room service a new bump in appreciation.”

Lurch looks on and shakes his head, “You won’t be able to keep your secret doing that in front of others.”

Smiling, “Oh, I think I will – especially as word of my title gets around. Others will expect me to know cantrips they don’t.”

He concedes, “I suppose that part is true. Let’s try and get you up to speed quickly, though.”

“Yes, though not today or tomorrow. I will take these rooms and be back after I have taken care of the commitments I already have. Let’s finish and go downstairs to complete the transaction. I have already ordered some furniture to be delivered tomorrow. That reminds me – I’ll be right back.” I get up and go into the bedroom on the right and above the balcony doors I visually center my gaze, point, and say, “Arcane Mark.” A symbol no larger than a quarter appears on the wall and then begins to fade away.

That will make it easier to scry here before teleporting. I return to the room and see that Lurch has finished his tea and beginning to stand. I reassemble the cube. Verifying it’s latched up properly, “Mr. Clean, Mr. Clean.” After that, back into inventory it goes. As we head downstairs, I begin to teach Lurch the glory of Teavana before Starbucks purchased them

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