The Frog Pond
Despite being built into the side of a mountain, Castle Draco still has gardens, of a sort. Rather than being decorative, they've largely been taken over by the various wizards and sorceresses in the employ of the Countess. So instead of flowers or topiary, the garden grounds are choked with herbs and strange plants (some of which display alarming mobility). The ponds have been largely left alone, aside from being home to some unusual fish, and have become a bit overgrown with lily-pads and other aquatic flora. This makes them ideal for raising frogs, however.
At the edge of the largest pond sits a very thin and tired-looking Skeek woman, with a number of small cages spread around her. There are frogs inside some of them, croaking away and hopping over and on top of one another. Others are empty but wet, as if they had been submerged in the water for a while. If one looked more closely at them, they would see that they are actually frog traps.
"I really don't know how I get stuck doing this sort of stuff," the Frogmilker can hear the familiar voice of Alptraum complain. A short distance away the Eeee comes into view, leading along a waddling rugrhat. "You don't have a choice, so I guess you wouldn't understand," he tells the 'rat. Never mind it's just a rugrhat and wouldn't understand in any situation.
The Rughrat in question is being led by an odd looking leash, since the ewe isn't wearing a collar. She grunts at the Eeee, and tries to nibble on whatever is growing closest to the path.
The mage lifts her head for a moment upon hearing Alptraum's approach. When she sees who it is and what he's leading she quirks an eyebrow in their direction and shakes her head, but doesn't stop what she's doing. Slowly, she pulls on a rope that has been submerged in the water and another frog trap resurfaces, with four or five more frogs inside.
"And doesn't this hurt?" Alptraum inquires of the creature as he directs it further into the garden, towards the odd wizard. "I would think it would hurt … hey, quit trying to eat that! You have no idea what it is!"
The ewe must know that Alptraum has a hard time resisting women, so plants her hooves defiantly and starts munching something with purple leaves.
Alptraum grumbles and pulls on that odd leash. "Oh, don't you start," he complains.
There's more grunting, and then the ewe releases an odor that might be described as 'magical' by those with certain experiences. She does abandon the purple plant for now, though.
"Herr Reisender," the Frogmilker sighs, as she transfers the frogs from the trap to one of the empty cages, "what do you want? Besides allowing your pet to destroy those plants the other magic-users have worked so hard to cultivate?"
"It's not my pet," Alptraum complains as he looks like he wants to kick it. "It belongs to an ally of the Countess."
The Skeek fastens the door of the tiny cage shut and eyes Alptraum again. "Then why did you bring it here?"
"Because I'm not taking it outside the castle. Gods know what sort of problems it would get into. It's also apparently in heat and I am not letting it get involved with anything. Its owner would be unhappy and make me unhappy," Alptraum explains with a sigh. "Do you often come in here at this time? I really should learn what times people are about so I don't disturb them."
The Frogmilker resets her trap lowers it back into the water. "I come here at this time once every few days. If I came every day, I'd be wasting my time for there wouldn't be any frogs to collect. If you wish to talk while I work, however, that is acceptable."
"How about dance? Can I dance while you work? Or maybe sing? Or … maybe I shouldn't annoy the mage, " Alptraum comments with a grin. "What is your usual routine? In case I need to find you some day. I'm still researching your … problem, after all."
"Baaaahaah," comments Alptraum's charge.
That actually gets the mage to smile, if only a little. "You may sing and dance only if you can carry a tune and don't fall into the pond," she responds, her tone lighter than before. "My schedule, you say? Well… in the mornings I see to any appointments I might have. Those take place in my own chambers. Then I have a break for the mid-day meal. After that, I visit any who are sick and cannot come to me. The evenings I usually have to myself. Of course, any of this could change at a moment's notice if the Countess had need of me. Is this the kind of information you were looking for?"
"You spend far too much time in your lab, then. Fresh air would do you good," Alptraum comments as he idly curls the odd leash around his fingers. "If I might make a suggestion? You should take some time each day to just go walking the castle grounds. It would take no more than an hour and probably make you feel a bit better. So, therefore as the special guest of the castle, I order you to take walks at lunchtime … please?" The Eeee grins. "I'm serious, it would help you build up a little more physical endurance."
The Rughrat complains and goes to the end of her tether trying to reach the pond. Maybe she's thirsty, or else is able to recognize what the word 'walk' means.
"Erp! 'scuse me, rat needs watering apparently," Alptraum says as he stumbles sideways, then allows the creature to get to the water's edge without pulling much on the leash.
At Alptraum's first use of the word 'walking,' the mage's eyebrows threaten to vanish into her hairline. She nods pointedly at the cane lying by her side. "Go for a 'limp' around the castle, you mean?" she asks archly. "Well… as long as you don't expect me to dash around the grounds at breakneck speed, I suppose I could manage one circuit every noontime."
"I could ease the pain in your leg for a bit," Alptraum notes after the cane is indicated. "And no, I don't expect you to run. Just … move more than sitting in the lab. And great, you'll do it. The stronger you are, the better for, well, dealing with things."
The ewe snorts up water like some sort of bilge pump, and twice as noisy.
"Doesn't she feed and water you?" Alptraum complains at the loud rugrhat.
"There is no pain in either of my legs, young man," the Frogmilker tells the Eeee. "They are simply weaker than they should be and I need the extra support or I will fall into the pond." Again, there is that ghost of a smile.
There's a grunt, and a ruder sound, followed by another fragrant burst reminiscent of magic cheese.
"All the more reason to walk then," Alptraum points out triumphantly. "See, everyone should listen to the bat. He's wise." The Eeee even nods a few times at that. Of course it might also be he's using his ears to fan away the smell. "And if you want … you could walk this Rughrat… "
The Rughrat relieves itself copiously against a stand of exotic-looking grass, which immediately curls up and dies.
"Walk this this smelly thing?" the Frogmilker exclaims, her smile vanishing. "For the sake of the gods, why?"
"So I don't have to," Alptraum says with a fangy, impish, grin.
In a sudden show of inappropriate affection, the ewe nuzzles against Alptraum's leg and wiggles her bobbed tail. "Bahahaha?"
Alptraum eyes the rugrhat. "What?" he asks it.
"Herr Reisender," the mage growls, "that is not a good enough reason. Unless you have a better explanation and a more truthful one I refuse."
The ewe blinks up at Alptraum, batting its long lashes. It's the same action it did when transformed into a duplicate of the Countess that one time…
"Your sense of humor also needs work," Alptraum notes with a glance to the mage. "Unfortunately, I don't know of any good humor exercises, alas."
"No. Your owner said you weren't allowed," Alptraum reminds the creature. "Plus, I'm not a rugrhat."
"My sense of humor is not at issue here," the Skeek replies. "Your motives, however, are."
"My motives are obvious enough. I'm trying to get out of walking the rugrhat," Alptraum points out. "As well as make an attempt at humor about it."
The Frogmilker is obviously unmoved by this. "I will walk once around the castle grounds at noontime, as you request, but since you cannot be completely honest with me about the reason for taking along the rugrhat, I will walk without it." She turns her eyes from him and begins lowering the other traps back into the water. Alptraum notices, however, that she doesn't ask him to leave.
"Fine. I wasn't serious about you walking it every day. This was just a one-time job for the Countess ally that I can't get out of anyway. You really need to improve your sense of humor," Alptraum notes and rolls his eyes. "So, what sort of frogs are you trying to catch today?"
Alptraum crouches down to watch and at least pets along the smelly rugrhat's back.
This action seems to mollify the beast for a time, since it stops making unpleasant noises and goes back to chewing its cud.
Alptraum does have to wonder if the rugrhat was ever a real person. He files that away as something to ask about later.
The mage doesn't seem at all put out by Alptraum's disapproval, which makes her either one very tough customer or very adept at hiding her true feelings. "Oh, just your usual green pond frogs," she says casually. "There's another pond that I use for breeding the more unusual varieties."
"Mind if I have one?" Alptraum inquires and extends his chitinous hand. "I could use a boost in stored energy."
Pea-sized eye poke above the surface of the pond, probably belonging to an old bullfrog. Then, with a plib sound, they're gone again.
"Not at all," the Skeek replies. "Let me find a larger one for you." She picks up a few cages in turn, then opens the third one and selects a nice male specimen, about the size of her entire hand. She offers it to Alptraum.
The frog croaks and wiggles its legs, looking at Alptraum with alien, amphibian eyes.
Alptraum takes the offered frog carefully into his right hand. Holding it firmly, but not too tightly, his eyes unfocus a bit as he extends shadowy ooze over it. There he holds for a moment, doing … something.
The mage observes this process with some curiosity but does not ask the Eeee to explain what he's doing. She merely goes back to lowering the last two traps into the pond.
Alptraum blinks, then mutters, "Bleh. Okay, I now know they aren't good for energy. Or at least they taste nasty,". The shadow withdraws and his hand is now empty. He can't help but wipe the palm (even though it's clean), on the rugrhat's back.
"Too little energy for you?" the Frogmilker asks. "I'm sorry, but he was the largest one I had."
"No. It makes me feel like I've been sucking on a ball of slime. Not a pleasant feeling," Alptraum explains with a shudder. The Eeee stands and gives a light tug on the rugrhat's leash. "Well, I had best be going. I need to get her back to her owner. I'm sure I'll see you around. I hope to come up with something to help you, well, soon."
The mage nods to Alptraum and says quite earnestly, "I thank you for doing so."
The ewe complains, as usual, when goaded into doing anything she's not already doing. Perhaps her name should be 'Inertia', since her owner never mentioned her having one. Reluctantly, the Rughrat starts to move as directed.
"I'm sorry, but you know your owner said you couldn't get … friendly with other rugrhats," Alptraum tells it. "And the longer we stay out here, the more you might want to."
Alptraum pats the Mage's shoulder and leads the creature back through the odd 'garden'. "And no, I won't comfort you. I'm not a rugrhat," he tells it as he goes. "And no ideas about asking your owner to fix that, either!"
The ewe grunts, then raises her long face and sniffs the air. "Bahah?" she queries, and then goes galloping off into the garden!
"Ack, no, stop!" Alptraum complains as he tugs on the leash, trying to stop it!
"As I said, Herr Reisender, don't fall into any of the ponds!" calls the Frogmilker's voice after the pair.
"AAwwwgh!" comes a cry from the elsewhere. "Git it orf!" The voice sounds distinctly… Igor-ish.
"Oh for the love of … that is not a rugrhat. Let him go! I'll find you something better to calm it. Just, argh," Alptraum complains in the distance. "I'll work something out with your owner. I'm sure she can calm it. Just … there! Igor … RUN!"
A couple days uneventful days pass for the Frogmilker. True enough to her word, she began her regimen of walking at lunchtime. The days are overcast as usual, but the Eeee was right on one thing, she does feel slightly better to get out and take a walk at lunch. On the third day, she overhears a quiet voice in a secluded part of the garden's. It's Alptraum, that's for certain. "I only agreed to speak with you because of other matters. What I heard you wished of me is extremely dangerous and difficult. I do not see why I would risk such for you," she hears him hiss to someone.
"For wealth, of course," replies a somewhat 'wispy' voice. "Reapers are paupers, and I can offer you enough to live comfortably for the rest of your life. The arms trade was very lucrative enough so that my competitors chose to eliminate me instead of play fair in business."
The mage's brow furrows in concern. She slows her walking pace so she can hear as much of the conversation as possible without alerting the whisperers to a change in her new routine.
"I doubt you can offer enough to offset the danger involved in transferring a spirit into a body body, not to mention the difficulty of restructuring a body to appear like the original. Yes, an animal can be used as a starting point, as a transfer is much simpler as an animal can't as readily resist its spirit being over-written, but it's still dangerous," Alptraum's voice comes in a hushed whisper. "The energy cost alone to reshape is huge, much less transfer you into it. So, unless you can give me figures on what it is worth, to me, to even attempt this, well … I have to refuse."
Spirit-transfer? the mage thinks, listening as she walks. Not in my line, but it does not sound safe.
After a few moments of silence, the wispy voice replies, "I can lead you to a hidden trove of mine within a day's flight of the Castle. It one of several, but should give you an inkling of what I can offer. Spoils of war, recaptured from Gallisian raiders. The art alone… well, it would be priceless to its original owners… or rather, to their survivors."
"Were you offering to save a life or spare a life instead of mere money … I would not hesitate. But this … " Alptraum whispers. "I risk degrading my own body to perform such an extend of transfer and manipulation. But perhaps … If I used the money there to help Draco County it would be worth the risk. Such funds could go far in helping those suffering here."
"Yesss," the other voice notes. "A return of their plundered culture and wealth. Surely, that is worth freeing me from this gourd?"
"It is tempting," Alptraum has to agree. "But what assurance do I have you are not lying or would not turn on me?"
Wait a minute a gourd? Is he speaking to some spirit trapped inside one? the Skeek wonders.
"From the question, I take it that the procedure would leave you vulnerable afterwards," the wispy voice a spirit, apparently suggests. "I will give you the location of the nearer treasure trove so that you may confirm my sincerity. With it, you can certainly hire someone to guard during the procedure."
"It may leave me vulnerable. I am only guessing at the energy I will require to manage what you want. I'm only considering this … not only because of all your offers of wealth, is for the knowledge it may impart to me. If it can be managed, it would be possible to resurrect someone complete … instead of merely possessing a body," Alptraum whispers. "And that … I am sure would be a valuable beyond anything else."
"Then let me be your test," the spirit begs. "My life was cut short, before I could accomplish all that I hoped for my homeland. I have no family to build my shrine, even."
In a few more moments, the mage's usual path will take her right by the secluded garden area where the two are talking, although she will be on the other side of the giant shrubs. As she walks, leaning heavily on her cane, she starts speaking to the empty air. "You would think that some people would learn from the foolish examples of others." Then she strides on past, not even bothering to look behind her to see if there has been any reaction to her words.
A thunk-clank, thunk-clank echoes, heralding the approach of another addition to the current situation. "This way, is it," the approaching figure asks in the tell-tale squawking of a avian. There's no answer, nor any other footfalls to suggest another is with him, but he goes right on talking. "The boy has it. Yes, the eee big ears like that. Awrk."
"Remember me," the wispy voice hisses, before going silent.
Alptraum covers his face and growls. In his left hand he holds a typical reaper's gourd that glows slightly in the overcast daylight. "And you would think someone would realize the risks a certain Eeee is willing to take to help her by helping her problem. Mages, they all think they know everything. Old mages, especially," the Frogmilker can hear Alptraum plainly say.
Out of the corner of his eye, Alptraum can see a shadow. A shadow, that seems to be growing, extending, towards him. It bleeds away from the sounding of the approaching footsteps, shifting from indistinct blob to an approximation of a hand only no hand hovers to cast the shadow.
The Frogmilker ignores Alptraum's outburst for the moment to address the newcomer over her shoulder. "If you're looking for a certain young, male Eeee, he's just behind these shrubs," she tells the avian, pointing at them. "As for the young Eeee in question, please tell him that I will make a second circuit around the gardens and return here in a few minutes. Just in case he would like to learn something from an old mage who knows more than he's willing to admit." Then, grinning, she goes limping on her way.
"Having fun, Mortimer?" Alptraum asks the approaching shadow, tone curt and frustrated. "Here I am trying to work out a solution to a rather ugly issue and everyone just wishes to interrupt it. I need the gourd a bit longer, to test a theory. It'll be worth it to you."
"Hrrmmm," goes the Reaper at the woman's comment, pausing to scratch at his beak with a grimy hand. "You didn't mention drama," he whispers aside to, well, the shadows apparently. His feathers rustle as a wind blows, a low moan through the trees, and then he clears his throat and insists, "I distinctly told you before to warn me of drama. Don't tell me you're an extension of my power and as such it's my fault for being forgetful!" He shakes his scythe at the shadow in frustration, which withdraws from Alptraum and slides over to pool around Mortimer's feet. In a higher voice, he calls out, "Don't mind the spectre, Alptraum. I told it to find my gourd, can't have those sorts of things just floating around, you know, and … I see you've met the inhabitants."
"They're still more likable than the ones I deal with regularly," Alptraum remarks to the approaching Korv. "And as for this," the Eeee comments, waving the gourd at the Korv, "I need for a bit longer. Other matters at hand I need to deal with and need a … spirit for a test. A mortal spirit, to be exact."
"Oh, well, have fun with it then. Mind the suaul rules, and all that. No forcing the dead, don't listen to them be BLASE' don't spin the gourd in an attempt to get them dizzy, and certainly don't mistake it for a boot flask and fill it with alcohol," the Korv says languidly. The shadow at his feet ripples, then bleeds off to extend across a tree base, rising up until it looks like he's casting a rather animated, larger shadow than he ought to. The shadow makes a 'yadda-yadda' motion with its nebulous talon when Mortimer talks.
Alptraum can't help but smirk at that. "You do realize your shadow thinks you're too preachy too, yes?" the Eeee inquires and nods towards the mimicking shadow behind him. "Now, if you're worried I might do something untoward with it, you could watch. I need someone as a guard, anyway."
"The elementals of death, as they're sometimes known, dislike being ordered about in general. I'm sure it'd much prefer scaring someone's poor house pet or haunting a manor than looking for my equipment, but life's tough or death, as it is," explains the Reaper. He nods, then takes a step back and leans heavily on his scythe. "I'll be your guard. The kitchen seems to be entirely out of all food, they tell me, so I have little else to do at the moment."
"Have you ever considered just buying your own food? It's what common folk have to do," Alptraum remarks and taps Mortimer's beak with a chitinous claw tip, creating a rather loud clicking sound. "Or even what I do … and I think I'm as far from common as most get."
"Offerings are one of the few boons of my profession. I ass very little to confront the undead, guide souls, and combat the dark arts," insists Mortimer. He makes a put upon sigh, shaking his head. "I guide loved ones to their final resting place, and people complain about a missing apple. It's a harsh world."
"It's not an offering if you take it," Alptraum feels compelled to point out, grinning. "You sound more like a gypsy than a escort of the dead… "
It's at this time that they hear the distinctive, irregular gait of the Frogmilker, returning to the spot as promised. In another minute, she appears on their side of the shrubs. Nodding a greeting to the Reaper, she lowers herself slowly onto a nearby stone bench. "So, care to explain this spirit in that gourd of yours?" she asks, as an opening.
"The desire for snacking and the shadow of Death often occur unexpectedly and with much trial. You see, there are many similarities in life. My actions hold deeper meaning," Mortimer points out. His gaze slowly shifts to the woman, so that he's eying her with one pink albino eyeball. "Oh, no, I don't care at all. Blase'. But I'm sure you'll glare at me, or perhaps walk about at me, or otherwise strike at me with guilt or the like, so to avoid that I'll answer with this: I'm a Reaper, he's a dead man, that's my gourd. The details you'll want to ask him yourself, I suppose."
Alptraum looks between Mortimer and the Frogmilker. He resists the urge to suggest the one thing that comes to mind. Maybe these two should go on a date, they're equally stubborn and pushy…
For some reason, Mortimer's little speech elicits another one of those small smiles from the mage. "Yes, I already gathered that you were a Reaper, sir. The scythe rather gave it away. So this is a spirit that you've been keeping for some time now?" she asks, pointing to the gourd with the end of her cane. "Well, I could question him about the details of his death and what he wants from Herr Reisender but the question becomes: will he answer truthfully? It has been my unfortunate experience that spirits like to play, shall we say, tricks on the living?" Her smile turns grim.
Alptraum points towards Mortimer's scythe. "He's compensating," the Eeee comments dryly. "Now, as for what the spirit wants, you should be familiar with that. He wants to live. Sound familiar? He's a perfect specimen for an experiment that might just save your life too."
"All the more reason not to listen to them, that. And if you must know, yes, he's been about for a while. No family shrine to go to, one of the Lost, as I like to call them. A good lesson in him: keep your mind on deathly preparations, least you languish in my gourd as well. If only more people took my advice in that … " The Reaper shakes his head to emphasis the tragedy of those ill-prepared for death.
The Frogmilker's smile remains grim as the Reaper elaborates on the importance of preparing for one's death, but she merely says politely, "Well said, Reaper." Then she regards Alptraum with those strange, bi-colored eyes. "Tell me more about this experiment. From the little I heard you say before, it sounds like a draining and dangerous process. Is this true?"
"Accompanying the boy is always a draining and dangerous process," remarks the Reaper, who seems to now be poking a leaf with the butt of his scythe.
"I won't speak much on what afflicts you, you know it far too well. But, he does it for lack of having a real body and a chance to resume his way of life. I can't remove him without hurting you. So … I looked into an alternate path, if there was a way to give him a true form again, one he couldn't be exorcised from. One he wouldn't require tricks like that necklace to keep. I looked into what it would take to give him a real body. What I learned was it requires a spirit with a steadfast desire to live and no concern for the consequences of destroying another spirit. Well, that fits him. And the second path requires manipulating a simpler creature, like a hog, into a new body. That can be done through the shadow," Alptraum begins.
"Now, seeing as how I am both shadow and can channel spirit, I am in a unique position to attempt this. but, its cost is an extreme amount of life and spirit energy. I think I can contain enough to manage it, and there is a spirit cold enough to desire it. If it works, it gives your issue a solution that would spare you death, and give him life," Alptraum concludes. "And what was that, Mortimer? Are you volunteering to be the simpler creature?" The Eeee grins.
"As a Reaper, I refuse to be riled by the baiting of monstrous sorts such as yourself, boy," the bird insists as he kneels down to snatch a grub from the ground. After popping the grub in his beak, he cocks his head to the side and pokes a finger at Alptraum. "You're suggesting dark arts, you know. For a good cause, yes, I know, but just keep that in mind. A hog's a hog, but it's alive and with spirit. What you'll do is unnatural, but it might work. History tells us of others who have accomplished similiar."
"I consider this gray arts," Alptraum counters and pokes Mortimer in the gut lightly. "No worse than killing the hog for food. That sustains life too."
"Better men have said as much," the bird remarks, giving Alptraum a look with one beady eye. "But I won't interfere. I'm not the Reaper of Animals, after all, and some things you should see for yourself. Now that I've said that, your best bet in this regard is looking at Necromancy, which is what this is, no bone-splitting about it. The pig-mangling I don't know much about, though."
The Frogmilker thinks on this for a very long time. At last, she asks, "You do understand that if you give Georgi another body, he will try to continue his reign of terror, yes? It was the only way he knew when he was alive, so what makes you think he will not attempt it all again?"
"He may. But at least if he were alive and separate, he could be addressed without endangering you," Alptraum points out. "You will certainly die if he remains as he is. This offers a better chance that no one dies."
"If you pick death, let me know beforehand," the Reaper informs the Frogmilker. "We can discuss the details."
The mage rests one hand on top of the other on the handle of her cane and sighs. Her shoulders actually slump for a moment and she stares at the ground. "Then you wish try this process first on the spirit from the Reaper's gourd, to see if it can be done. Yes, I understand you now… but what happens if the process is more dangerous than you expect? What becomes of you?" Before the Eeee can answer that question, she looks him in the eyes again and asks him another one. "Alptraum, do you know why I have no apprentices?"
The feathers on Mortimer's head rustle again, and that low moaning floats on the phantom breeze. "It would be inappropriate to say that," Mortimer tells the spectre. "I'm sure she's perfectly reasonable to work with."
"What becomes of me is my concern and my issue to worry over, not yours. I'm doing this because I want to help," Alptraum answers with a sigh. "As for why, I can guess you do not wish to endanger anyone. Just as I often do not involve others in my issues, as varied and dangerous as they are."
"But if you are both killed, feel comforted I am here to see to your remains and your souls," the Reaper puts in encouragingly.
"My Mother has claim to my soul, you know," Alptraum points out to Mortimer. "I know what awaits me. More or less."
The Skeek's lips twitch again in the ghost of a smile when she hears what Mortimer says to his spectre but her words are for Alptraum. "Your guess is a close one I do not wish to endanger anyone again. The last apprentice I had, she was with me when I stupidly chose to put on this accursed necklace. She saw my pain and wanted to help me, just as you do… but when she tried to remove it, neither one of us knew what would happen. Georgi took control of me completely and almost killed her. Gods, he- no, we severed her hands from her body and… " The mage trails off, unable to continue for a while. Finally, she says, "I want so much for Georgi to be gone from me, but not at your expense."
"Then I wish you the utmost luck with that; many ask me to keep their souls far from their mothers, so that they need not 'hear about it' for the rest. For your sake, I hope you have met her expectations." Shifting his attention back to the Frogmilker, the Reaper shakes his head with could it be? sympathy, the edge of his beak curving into a frown. "Shame when the youth have to suffer nothing quite riles me more than when the young suffer at the hands of the dead. We'll see this handled, I'm sure. Or we'll die. Really, it's a win-win."
"Everything costs, the question is always what. The experiment is intended to find out what. It is also to be proof to Georgi to show him it's possible as I doubt he would believe me otherwise," Alptraum explains and takes a moment to rub the back of his neck, looking uncomfortable. "If you want to spare me expense, because I do intend to do this, even if you object … just provide me a safe location for the experiment. The safer the location, the less risk. We'll go from there."