Romance Versus Relics Chapter 10

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  • 1.
    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!

    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.

    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?
    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."

    " 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.
    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!

    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.

    " 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.

    She finally realized she needed to pull the wall lantern in order to gain access into the next room.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    Hidden behind the secret door, were relics and a chest. Nellie quickly nabbed them and then left the room to continue her investigation.

    The room beyond where she had found the hidden switch contained nothing but a flowerbed and a staircase, which Nellie promptly ascended.

    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.

    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.

    " 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.
    " 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."

    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.
    " 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.

    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.
    " 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."

    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!"
    Nellie reluctantly reached out and took the key. No one had to tell her what a death trap the Landgraab house could be.

    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.
    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.

    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.

    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.
    The room to her right seemed to be a sitting room or lounge of some sort. The room to her left was the library.

    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.

    The chest was where the papers were hidden, so Nellie snatched them up quickly and left to take them to Francois Lambert.

    " 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."

    " 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 vig