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Rated: 13+ · Other · Action/Adventure · #1824238
A Dead Wizard holds the only key to his own death.

Chapter Two

Jack and Winters stood outside the stone mansion, once housed by one of the five League of Wizards. This particular structure sat on the east side of town; the other four were set along the west, north and south, with the last setting in the center of town. If one were to draw an imaginary line to each of the structures, it would look like a pentagram. The city itself was built like a crescent moon, thanks to the bay, a number of alleyways and streets were shaped in rune like fashion to complete the pentagram.
Four wizards, brothers in arms to the fifth, stood nearby with their multi-colored robes sparkling and shifting in the still darkness, muttering words so ancient few could ever comprehend the powers they possessed. With arms raised, they stood in a tight circle, chanting while guards and onlookers watched on. Whispered words broke the stillness of night; candles glowed in open windows around the block. Shadows danced in rhythm with the whispers, the tall street lamps flickered and sputtered while the wizards drew more power to the spells they were casting. With one brother dead, the magic feeding the city was now weaker. It would take time to locate another wizard to replace the one who had fallen.
“Tell me again,” Jack said, wondering what the wizards were trying to do. “How do we know he’s been murdered? He could very well be out of town, at one of those...conventions he’s always running off too.”
“Because,” Winter sighed, “his apprentice found him dead in his study not more than a half hour ago. She came running out of the house, screaming her master had been murdered. I just came on duty when she ran into my arms. I gathered the wizards here soon after. We’ve tried to get her to explain how he was killed, but she’s so frightened the healers were called in to give her a potion to calm her down.”
Throwing his arm up, Jack started to curse. “Those damn healers think their potions can cure anything. All they really do is cloud ones thoughts and makes it harder on us to get the facts we need. Every one of them should be given a dose of their own damn medicine to see how it feels. Why didn’t you stop them?”
Cursing under his breath, Jack pushed Winters to one side, not waiting for her answer, and walked up to the four wizards who were now huddled together, talking about strategies and counter spells. Pushing one of them aside, he stepped into the center of the group and growled, “Did you ever think to just walk up and knock on the front door? Malicks’ door is never locked. The wards you’re sensing are for protection from the weather, and if you keep throwing those damn counter spells around we may never get in. Now put your magic away before...”
“Jack,” Winters called out, stopping his rampage.
“The front door is open.”
“By the fates...” Jack sputtered before he gave each wizard a hard look. “See! Magic can’t fix everything! You should know this by now. Magic is a waste of time if you ask me!”
Stepping away, he followed Winters in, stopping at the door to turn back in time to see the wizards following him. The four wizards stopped, bumping into each other like wooden soldiers, before reaching up to catch the pointed hats resting on their balding heads. “Let us enter! We must see our brother’s body,” speaking as one, irritating Jack more. He always hated them for doing just that. A large vein formed in his forehead, and his blue eyes narrowed as he looked into the face of each wizard.
“I don’t think so! You called me here, so let me do my duty. If you want to help, you can start by keeping everyone away from here, and find Malicks’ apprentice! I want a word with her before the healers ruin any chances of getting any normal sense out of her. Knowing them, they’ve already clouded her mind with their potions and tea. I need her coherent and speaking by the time I come back out or heads will roll!” Turning back, he slammed the door closed locking it behind him. Looking up he saw them watching, four ancient faces pressed to the glass door pane. Turning, he came face to face with Winters.
“Was that wise Jack?” Winters asked. “Telling the League what to do? You know the powers they possess...”
“They would only get in the way and trample all over any evidence we may find. You of all people should know this by now. You yourself said this was no ordinary murder. Now shut up and tell me what you see.”
Winters started to open her mouth, her blue eyes sparkled with mirth. Jack halted her by raising his hand. “You know damn well what I meant.”
One slender white brow arched up. Winters turned away without saying another word. With her hand still resting on the hilt of her blade, she pointed down a narrow corridor. “He’s back there, in the study. The girl said he had been working late hours, and she had retired to bed early. She woke up startled by a strange sound. She said it was loud, like a thunderclap. Then she heard the sound of something heavy falling, a thud is how she explained it. She said she didn’t hurry from her bed to check on her master knowing at times he dropped things. Making her way from her room to the study, she found him laying face down in a pool of blood. She told me this, then the healers potion kicked in. After that she was incoherent.”
“You can bet this week’s pay its due in part to that foul potion the healers gave her, no doubt. Did she say if she saw anyone, heard anything out of the ordinary, say, a door closing, a shutter creaking open, anything besides the bang and thud?”
Winter shook her head. “No, only those two sounds. She did mention her bedroom is just off to the right of the study and she keeps her door open. Malicks would come in and wake her during all hours of the night sometimes to have her help him with a spell, so she didn’t have far to go to find him.”
Jack nodded. Following her down the long corridor, stepping in her footsteps so not to mess up any evidence, they made their way into the open study, where they found the body of the fifth wizard. Malicks was lying on his side, his right arm resting above his head, his left arm tucked against his chest. A large pool of blood flowed out from under the body’s robe, staining both robe and the rich looking carpet. His hood was up, covering his face, a pair of wire rimmed glasses rested just under its edge. A book rested near his right hand facing down.
“It appears he had been reading when the murder took place. See his glasses there? The earpieces are still open. Should we try to turn him over? We need to see how he was killed,” Winters asked as she knelt down beside the body. “He hasn’t been dead long.”
The moment they had entered, she had drawn her dagger. Now, she stuck it into the pool of blood. “See, no film has formed and it’s still warm.” She rubbed the blood dripping from her dagger’s tip between her fingers.
“Don’t touch him until you do a Peel-Back spell. I want to see what he was doing before being struck down. It may also give us some idea who killed him and how. If we disturb him now, we’ll get a false reading. I’ll wait out here until you’re finished.”
Winters almost smiled, the corner up her lip turned up into a smirk. “Do you still have a phobia for magic, Jack? A big man such as yourself is still afraid...”
“Don’t go there, Eve! Just do your job! You’ll live longer.”
Jack thought he heard her muttering something about him calling her Eve when he stepped back into the hallway. The tiny hairs on the back of his neck stood on end at the thought of her using magic. He hated magic, funny if one thought hard and long enough. He had his reasons, reasons he had never told a soul. Instead, he paced the hallway until Winters came out, wiping the tip of her dagger on the heel of her boot. She stood there staring at Jack for the longest time, then spoke.
“You two were close, were you not?”
Jack slowly nodded, reaching up to rub the small silver charm hanging around his neck. “Malick took me in after my mother was murdered. All five of them did, actually. I was only four at the time, angry and unwilling to listen to anyone. But they found a way to use my anger for good. He placed me with the city guards when I turned ten. I was wet behind the ears. I grew up in the ranks, from a scrawny blonde headed stable boy brushing down the guard’s horses and emptying stalls, to the man you see before you now. He was a like a...father I never had. They all were...”
His eyes itched with unshed tears as his hand rose to wipe away a tear which threatened to fall until he looked into Winters eyes. Then he stood tall, trying not to show the wave of nausea starting to form in his stomach. Cracking the vertebrae in his neck, his hands turning into fists, he took a step forward. His feet felt like lead, his strength almost failed him. He bit the inside of his jaw while his eyes grew cold. Throwing his head back, he arched his shoulders and stood there for a moment. Every nerve in his body screamed, telling him to turn away, to run but he took another step, straining to inch toward the doorway.
“Jack? I can do this alone if you wish.”
Jack seemed to be battling an unseen force when suddenly he dropped to one knee. Resting his head in his sweat soaked palms he looked up, fear sparkled in his eyes. “Start without me, Eve. I...I’ll be there momentarily.”
Winters stepped up, her breath hissing between drawn lips for being called by her last name once again. Kneeling down, she threw Jack’s left arm up and over her shoulder before standing and pulled him up, as if he was as light as a feather. Wrapping her arm around his waist, locking her fingers under his belt, she took a step forward, all but dragging him along.
“He was a good man, Jack. He would want you there. You are stronger than this. Now stop this silly nonsense and help me. You’ll do his memory no good sitting out here by yourself. Now place one foot in front of the other,” she coaxed the large man to move.
“You could shed a few pounds, you know,” she said, giving the captain beside her a mocking smile.
Jack’s laugh was weak, but it got a true smile out of her. With help, they both staggered to the door in time to witness the murder, yet the images left them with more questions than answers. Both looked at each other then back in time to see a faded image of the wizard turning, then being struck by something that took him off his feet. Time seemed to stand still until they turned and saw the wizard’s apprentice suddenly appear. Wearing nothing but a thin nightgown that clung to her young, shapely form, she came to a halt just inside the pentagram that was drawn on the floor around the body. Her hand rushed up to stop her own scream before she slowly walked over to kneel beside the body. They watched as she touched the pool of blood around the lifeless form of the wizard and then jumped up, screamed and ran out. Stepping closer, they both jumped when the girl shot between them, her hands held to her chest as she ran for the front door, disappearing as her feet crossed the thresholds outer edge. The only bad thing about using a Peel-Back spell was the fact there was no sound produced and all images were locked inside the magic bubble. It was just like watching a ghost reenacting the murder.
“Well...she didn’t kill him,” Jack said at last. “But who did, and how? Did you see how his body arched up and back? Whatever struck him gave a pretty good blow to his body. It took him completely off his feet.”
Winters remained silent, running the images through her minds eye in slow motion, doing it frame by frame before she spoke.
“Did you notice he was facing the open window, as if he heard something before being struck down? We’ll need to move the body, Jack. Are you ready?”
Pushing off, Jack stepped in and knelt down, careful not to disturb the pentagram Winter had drawn around the body. Reaching out, he grabbed the old wizard’s cloak, giving it a quick jerk. Stumbling back he blinking and brushed a stay strand of hair from his friend’s wrinkled face. His fingers followed down across his lifeless brown eyes, closing them for the last time. Carefully, he pulled the blood soaked robe back and stared at a large diameter hole in the man’s chest. Whatever struck him hit him in the left side of the chest, stopping his heart for good.
“He wasn’t killed by any normal means,” Jack said, his fingers felt around the deep hole, pressing the damp material of his friend’s shirt down. “Hand me your dagger. I need to see the wound more clearly.”
Kneeling across from Jack, Winters handed her weapon off hilt-first, watching Jack’s hand as it shook. Worried he would do more damage to himself than the shirt, she reached out placing her hand on his, noticing for the first time how warm and soft it felt. With her help, he was able to cut the thin material away, exposing the wound.
“No dagger makes a wound like that, or any blade I’ve ever seen,” Winters whispered. “Whatever it was, it entered his body, breaking his rib, before collapsing his lung. From there it seemed to have struck a leading artery to his heart. He bled out,” she whispered, taking mental notes with accuracy. Taking the dagger from Jack, she placed the end into the wound, feeling around before Jack caught her wrist in a death like grip.
Winter tried pulling her arm free, but Jack’s strength matched hers. She saw her own skin starting to bruise before he turned her loose. “I was looking for the weapon, Jack. Whatever killed him is still in there,” pointing at the wound with the tip of her dagger. She rubbed her wrist. A soft glow formed before she spoke again, her wrist healed. “If we find out what killed him, we can work on how he was killed and who might have done it. We need that weapon Jack. You saw yourself no one was in the room when he was struck down. What does this tell you?”
Jack looked up his eyes were ringed in red. “He was murdered! From there,” pointing at the open window. Standing he quickly rushed to the window, only to surprise a number of onlookers who had heard of the murder and were trying to see the dead wizards body. Anger swelled in his eyes as he slammed the window closed, shattering the glass in the process. More then one patron ran away with a curse on their lips.
“Our evidence has been compromised! By the fates, can’t those idiots do anything right? Didn’t I tell them to keep everyone away? Do they ever listen?”
Reaching out, he grabbed a mage globe resting on a nearby table, and threw it across the room. It exploded, all but blinding the pair before bathing the room in darkness, causing another light to take its place. Kicking a chair, he cursed. He picked the chair up and shattered it across the table’s face. Then, taking the leg of the now broken chair he cleared the table off. Books, tombs and sheets of parchments scattered across the room like wheat husks thrown to the wind.
“JACK!” Winters screamed. “Stop this nonsense! Your actions will not bring him back.”
Jack stopped at the sound of Winters voice. Standing there, gripping the leg of the chair, he slowly dropped the piece of wood and scrubbed his face with his open palms, trying to make sense of everything. Taking a deep ragged breath, he tried to regain his composure. With hands still shaking, he pointed trying to keep his voice from straining.
“Have the body taken to the healer’s hall. Be sure they wrap him up in something. A clean sheet or blanket should work. I don’t want anyone to see him like this, not even his brothers. See to it no one touches him until I get there. Be sure Gavin the Old is there with his instruments. I don’t want to see anyone else near the body. No wizards or healers, and lock this damn house down. I don’t want anyone within spitting distance of it, or by the Fates heads will roll.”
Running his fingers through his short gray hair, he left the study, staggering outside only to throw up in the bushes. Turning when the other four wizards stepped up, he wiped his mouth dry. He looked at each and every one of them. His eyes alone told the story. Each wizard dropped his head, saying a soft prayer before patting him on the shoulder or back.
“We want a full report son,” Malachi, the youngest of all the wizards, said. “We will not rush you though such troubling times. Know this. If you need anything, you only need to come to one of us for help. Our reach is long, our powers are at your disposal.”
Jack shook his head before grabbing the old wizard’s wrist. “Watch your back, old friend! Something foul is afoot. I’ll give you my findings soon, but I’ll be taking the body to the hall for Gavin the Old to look at. We’re looking at a murder, plain and simple, but one which raises more questions than I have answers. I’m bringing Eve in on this. She’s the one who found the girl. I’ll be talking to her as well, so keep her safe.”
“May the fates watch over you and your friend.”
Jack watched the last of the four wizards walk away, each one talking, asking questions, wondering how anyone could get close enough to one of the five wizards to kill them. Jack knew new spells would be cast, new wards would be thrown up, strengthened and more than one candle would burn out before the night was over. Walking away, he took time to wonder who would want his mentor killed. There was nothing the man would not do to help better the people and the city they lived in. Murder was rare, almost unheard of until this night.
“More questions than answers...”
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Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/1824238-To-Kill-A-Wizard--Chapter-Two