“What updates do you have for me today?” Caleb asked Jim when he walked into the study. Caleb left the day to day operations to his right hand man. Jim walked over to the leather high back chair across the desk from Caleb and sat before answering. In the short time that Jim has been running things, he has changed somewhat. He was still the gruff bouncer type guy he had always been, but now, he was carrying himself with an air of importance. In fact, with a little more guidance Caleb was sure he could smooth out the rough edges and refine him into a proper gentleman.
“The construction in movin’ ahead at lightenin’ pace. They may even finish earlier then you requested,” Jim responded.
Raising an eyebrow at Jim’s answer, Caleb joked, “As I requested? I don’t remember it being a request.”
“Well, ya know how rumors start an’ word changes with retellin‘. Anyway, about the other matter you wanted me to follow-up on. There has been some progress. It seems she’s on the move. She’s travelin’ by crow; he goes by the name of Roger. They’re headin’ northeast to Bean Town. It will take a couple hours travelin’ in this weather for them to reach the town. That’s all the info Woody could get. Apparently, one of the maids can sense when he flashes close to the Oracle. Therefore he’s not able to hide out and he’s had to flash in and out quickly.”
“I only want him to report her movements. I’ve got another in mind to a…help me talk with her.” Caleb caught his tongue before he let his true intentions slip. Jim would never help kidnap the Oracle; no matter how much I need it to complete the ritual. In order for me to gain all that I deserve I must have the old Oracle and new one. I will have to intersect her in Bean Town. “Has there been any news on the search for the next Oracle?”
“Just that, all of the pregnant women in Flower City have been tested and found to be typical. That’s why the Oracle is leavin’ for Bean Town. I hear they’ve the largest amount of pregnant women after Flower City.”
“Jim, tell me honestly, do you think I could make a good papa?” Caleb asked sincerely.
“I think you could make a fine poppy but ya know your enemies are many. They’ll take down any woman who tried to love ya, just to hurt ya. Don’t go get any crazy ideas.” Jim said sternly.
“Don’t you see, that’s why this project is so important to me. If there is a way for me to change that and have the life I’ve always deserved, then, I have no choice. I have to see it through to fruition,” an impassioned Caleb pleaded unconsciously hoping for Jim’s full support.
“I understand what you want but I don’t know if there is a force, besides the Gods, that could bring about that kinda change in the world. In my opinion, it’s pointless to continue down this line of discussion. If I may go, I gotta make my rounds,” Jim said, standing to leave.
“Sure, if you see Hugo, tell him, I need to talk with him. Also, if you hear anymore about the movements of the Oracle, be sure to tell me ASAP,” Caleb finished.
“Sure thing.” Jim closed the door as he left.
In his absence Caleb sat at his desk, opened the locked middle drawer, and pulled out the grimiore of Gabriela the Great. “I’ve almost got everything I need to test for the next Oracle. Thanks to this wonderful woman. The only problem is that the tests were preformed on children after birth. There is no mention of a test being preformed while the mother still carries the child. Oh well, there are ways around that. I don’t need it to live long; just long enough to be tested and complete the ritual. From the passages written, if a child tested isn’t the Oracle it wouldn’t live through the test anyway. So, what do I care if it’s “born” early or not.” Caleb lost in his maniacal plans didn’t hear someone knocking at the door. He jumped when the noise finally penetrated his thoughts.
“Who is it? What do you want?” he yelled to the person on the other side.
“It’s Hugo, you wanted to see me boss?”
Hugo was no small man, not only was he tall but he’s strong too. The lead guard in Caleb’s defense with a mind for strategy. He was a formidable man with no soft spots to be found. Rainbows, sugar, spice and everything nice have no affect on him. He would push his grandmother under a horse if it meant something better for him. Caleb hardly trusts him but when it comes to doing dirty work he’s the man for the job. Hugo will be loyal enough if the job is nasty enough.
“Yes, come in and close the door. I‘ve a job just for you and your special talents.”
“Yeah! What cha have in mind?”
“Let me start by saying it wont be easy and it will require the utmost secrecy. No one can know what you are doing or who you’re after. Got it?” Caleb directed, coldly.
“Got it. You’ve got me curious, what is the job and who am I whackin’?”
Caleb unemotionally continued giving his directions, “For the moment, the only ones you’re allowed to whack are the ones who find out the truth about what we’re up to. I need you to kidnap some very special Muridae. Here’s where it gets tough. I want you to kidnap the old Oracle, bring it back to me…alive. It must be alive or everything will be lost. Understand, alive.”
“Yeah, yeah I got it alive. But you mentioned some Muridae, who are the others?” Hugo asked getting visibly excited at the prospect of more fun.
Now a smile slowly spread across Caleb’s face in anticipation of Hugo’s soon delight. “In a word, pregnant women.”
“Are you toying with me? You’ve never let me have this much fun. Do they have to be alive too?”
“Sadly yes, they need to be alive, in good health and unharmed. You may take one of the more trustworthy mushroom pixies to help you transport the cargo. That is after it’s been acquired. Until then, you will have to travel by other means. I don’t want to raise suspicions by you leaving suddenly. As far as anyone will know you and your buddy will be scouting the boundaries of the Dark against attack from my enemies.”
“When do we leave?” asked Hugo.
“Right away,” answered Caleb. “The target is traveling to Bean Town by crow. It will take them practically no time at all to reach the town. I’m expecting they will be there for about a month. The Oracle has Muridae around it most of the time. I would assume that, given the nature of their business, security will be heightened. They’re not so foolish, even in times of peace, as to leave it unguarded. Pack your things and get the pixie you plan to take with you; then meet me back here.”
Hugo left without anymore discussion. He walked quickly with a spring in his step, excited at the prospect of dispensing some punishment. Given that he’s lead guard; his home was one floor down from the penthouse. It didn’t take him long to reach the apartment. Once inside, he headed straight to his bedroom and began packing a small travel bag. In the bag, he threw only the essentials a couple knives and a fire kit. From the closet he grabbed his tent kit, his sturdiest boots, heaviest coat and his sword. All of this, took less then five minutes. Hugo, never knowing when he’d be called upon, was always prepared. On his wrist, he flipped open a crystal communicator. He spoke the species and the name of the entity he wants to contact, “Psilocybe pixie, Amanita”. A few heart beats later and a woman’s voice came through the communicator.
“Hey Ugo, long time no see. What’s up?”
“Amanita honey, I got us a special job. Your gonna need to pack for the weather.”
“What do you mean pack for the weather? I can flash us anywhere you need to go or did you forget?” Amanita responded.
“I’ll explain more when you get here: just be sure to pack for the weather. We will be traveling by foot for the most part. How soon can you….,” before Hugo could finish his question, Amanita was standing in the room with him. She dropped her traveling bag on the floor and sauntered over to Hugo. He greeted her with a hug lifting her off her feet. She wrapped her arms around his thick neck and leaned in for a passionate kiss.
“I needed that,” she said pulling away from their embrace. “You shouldn’t wait so long to call on me, Ugo.”
“You know we can’t meet often; the boss won’t go for it. Anyways, we have a serious job to do, top secret. Our cover is that we’re traveling the boundaries of the Dark to protect against the bosses enemies. What we’ll really be doing is kidnapping our target, the Oracle and some pregnant woman. We can’t flash to them, but once we have the targets you can flash them back here,” Hugo said updating Amanita.
“Oh how fun!” squealed Amanita while dancing around the room. “We haven’t had fun like that since Caleb took control of the Dark.”
“There is a catch,” Hugo ventured.
She stopped in mid-spin hearing his latest comment. “A catch, there’s always a catch.” she said pouting. “What is it?”
Pausing before breaking the bad news, he replied, “We have to bring them back alive and unharmed.”
“Awww, come on! We finally get a good mission and you gotta ruin it like this?” She whined.
He walked over to her and placed his hands on her sides. Looking into her eyes, he simply stated, “Boss’s orders” and shrugged his shoulders. “But he did say, we could have fun with anyone who finds out what we’re up to. Don’t worry baby, we’ll have lots of fun with any fool who thinks they can stop us.”
“You know it, Huey,” she said, wrapping her arms around his neck again and leaning in for another kiss. After the brief embrace, they gathered their things and headed for the study. A few minutes later Hugo and Amanita were in Caleb’s study waiting for him to return. Their few bags were in a small pile by the door. “Huey, why we gotta kidnap the Oracle and pregnant women?”
“I don’t question the boss and neither should you,” chided Hugo. “Just relax, I expect he will be back any moment now.” At his last word, the door to the study opened and Caleb entered looking tired.
“Oh, good you’re here. I wasn’t expecting you to get back so quickly.” He tried to hide something in his desk as he took his seat. Amanita noticed he had a small white book but said nothing. She noted the drawer he placed the book and that he locked the drawer. Caleb continued, “Hugo, you know what I want you to do. You didn’t pack much are you sure you’ll have everything you need?”
“Yes, with Amanita by my side there isn’t anything else we’ll need. She is an excellent fighter, knowledgeable about all mythical creatures and has great instincts with the stupid humans,” Hugo answered confidently.
“Awww, thanks Huey! I didn’t think you noticed. Oh and boss he’s just the best at well, you know.” Amanita motioned her hand across her throat to symbolize murder.
“Then, there is just one more thing we need to do. If you’ll follow me. You can leave your things here; we’ll be returning in a few minutes.” They followed Caleb out of the study, through the penthouse and down the many floors. Hugo had no idea where they could be headed. As they traveled lower in the old maple he became more curious. Amanita appeared aloof but she was really taking in the sights of her surroundings. Never before had a creature with the ability to flash been given such access. Once they reached the basement level, Hugo and Amanita exchanged looks of confusion but still no one questioned Caleb about his intentions. Finally, they reached the area near the door leading to the library. Here Caleb stopped and turned to face them before speaking. “We’re about to go where no one but myself and one other Muridae know about. This is where you will deliver the targets. Once you have returned with them use your communicators to contact me. I will meet you here. No one and I mean no one must know about this place or what you’re doing. Hugo, if I order it; you are to kill Amanita. She could be a liability and Amanita the same goes for you. If I order it you are to take out Hugo. I will not tolerate anyone challenging me. The work we’re doing will better all of our lives here in the Dark. However, by your very presence, I’m sure you have figured the work isn’t pleasant.”
Both Hugo and Amanita were shocked with Caleb’s latest orders but neither showed any emotions. They only nod their heads in silent agreement. With their agreement, he led them into the library that he had been busy reorganizing. No longer were there any bookcases in the open floor. Those have been moved into a room in the penthouse. The books that once lined the built in shelves have been moved to the penthouse as well. In there place are a couple chairs, ropes and cloths, all the tools any kidnapper might need to keep their finds under confinement. “As you can see, I have prepared the room for your return. Amanita you will be able to flash here, correct?” Caleb asked.
“Sure, no prob,” she confirmed. “One question boss, How do we know which prego to grab?”
“The Oracle is looking for the next child,” he informed them. “We’ll need the ones she hasn’t confirmed yet. There is a woman traveling with her by the name of Mina. She is an assistant to the Oracle and keeps track of her schedule. You maybe able to find the information we need from her. If there are no further questions, Amanita would you please flash us back to the study?”
“Sure thing boss. Everyone grab hold.”
In a flash, they arrived back in the study. No one spoke a word as the couple grabbed their supplies and headed out. Caleb returned to his desk and once the traveling party closed the door behind them, he took out the two books. He began to review the many notations he’d made in preparation for the coming ritual.