The next adventure
|Five days passed since Clara vanished, seven from the Old One's disappearance. Despite Silverbolt's best efforts, he found no clues as to their whereabouts. Lord Tuxley vanished overnight along with Rexword, which concerned the hero because he could change people. Lord Schaefer still hadn't come up for air and remained hidden.
Gabe had lost the spring in his step. The loss of Clara devastated him in a way a real wound couldn't. Silverbolt and Constance could only watch as Gabe threw himself into the new base of operations project.
Steel gray eyes looked at the old trade house. In essence, it was two buildings connected by a bridge in the center. New clay tiles adorned the roof and a fresh coat of paint on the side. A reasonably high fence surrounded the building. It was close enough to the city and had space for the ancient beast, should he ever get found.
Gabe stared at the building. His average face barely cracked a smile. "I'll start setting up at once. The servants are on their way with the books and file cabinets. Do you want me to start dossiers for our enemies?"
Constance gave the young noble a sympathetic look, "Take a day off, Gabe. You need to grieve. Silverbolt will do another sweep after we finish our errands in town."
He shook his head, "I'll sleep here. Mother and father want me to stop pursuing Clara and get serious about my responsibilities. I refuse to give up until I know things are over between us. You two go, plan your wedding."
Today was a first for Silverbolt. Constance coaxed the hero into a brocaded doublet that suited his pants and shoes. He wore a knee-length black long coat with silver thread, which hid his earthly clothes.
He looks just as impressive without the armor. Most importantly, he feels good about what he wears. "You look dashing, my love."
The steely eyes looked at her dubiously. "Then why do I feel like an idiot in them?"
Constance sashayed up to him and kissed him softly and then again more firmly. "You spent a lot of time in your armor. It will take time to adjust." She pointed to a group of young women staring at him. "They seem to think you're appealing."
"I don't care much about them. As long as you like the clothes, that's good enough for me."
Why wouldn't I like his attire? I can feel his hard body beneath. "You are so sweet to say such things."
"Just telling you like it is." He pointed down the street. "Here comes your mother with another woman."
My mother must be with Modesty Davenport, the wedding planner to the nobility. "Modesty is the premier wedding planner in Ivorhaven. Do behave yourself."
Modesty Davenport was a prim and proper woman who believed the upper and lower class should never meet on equal footing. She detested Silverbolt from the moment she met him, outside the tailor's shop.
Not hair was out of place, nor was clothing marked by a speck of dirt. "Lady Constance Reynard, I am pleased to make your acquaintance. I was surprised to hear about your engagement. Which of your young nobleman found the courage to ask?"
The wedding planner walked around Silverbolt like he was some lawn ornament while she greeted Sophie. Silverbolt looked like he was ready to separate her head from her shoulders.
Constance giggled and pointed to Silverbolt. "You walked right past him. Modesty, meet Ethan Argent, my fiance."
Modesty stared at the handsome man and shook her head. "Lady Constance, are you sure about this union? I know nobility, and this man is no noble. Are you getting married under duress?"
Sophie's eyes narrowed at the wedding planner. She moved her body in front of her daughter. "Are you questioning my daughter's choice, Modesty?"
Constance watched the metal-clad fist electrify and forced Silverbolt's arm down. "Ethan, a gentleman, does not act this way in public." She turned to Modesty and spoke in a low and deadly tone. "Your job is to help plan my wedding and not question my taste in men. Do I make myself clear?"
Modesty went white and bowed. "Forgive my lady. I am not used to seeing such an unorthodox choice in a husband."
Why do wedding planners assume they know everything about a couple when they meet them. "He is unorthodox, thank All-Mother for that, or else I wouldn't marry at all." Constance tapped the parasol against the ground while she spoke.
Silverbolt had lost all interest in the conversation and was watching something on the rooftops. His hand was over his eyes. "Looks like we have a new player in town. I have to go." His other hand pointed at an individual wearing a horned animal skull helmet and bone armor.
Why is that horned helmet so familiar? I've seen it somewhere before. "It's best if you leave anyway. I planned to get fitted for my dress. It's unlucky if you see it before the big day." Their lips touched, and her mind drifted among the gods until it ended. "Try to be careful. I want to marry you standing upright and not from a bed."
A hand clasped the necklace. "I will be careful-ish." The soft glow saw the clothes change into Silver armor and a heart-shaped mask with crossed lightning bolts. "Where should I meet up with you?"
"We'll be in the pottery shop later picking out dinnerware for the reception. If we are not there, go home and keep Gabe company." Hopefully, it won't take him too long to figure out if the newcomer is a friend or foe.
Modesty goggled at the pair. "Silverbolt? Lady Constance Reynard is going to marry Silverbolt? His name is on the lips of every noble from here to Slaitcairn. I made such an ass of myself...," A gauntleted hand silenced her.
"Modesty, relax. Listen to the Damn Girl, and we'll get along fine," Silverbolt said. The meteor hammer's chain rattled loose. "You should have been there for the jeweler. He urinated in the middle of our consult for some reason."
Why is he so proud of that? The poor man ran off and told him to stay away from his shop. "You shocked his bladder area."
"Do you have proof?"
"Then, he peed himself."
Constance giggled involuntarily, "You are such a scamp sometimes. Why are you still here?"
The meteor hammer sped toward her body. Constance's heart raced while the chain bound them together. He raised the mask and kissed her. Her knees buckled, and she ached for more. An excited squeak escaped her lips when he unwound the chain and headed to the rooftops. He recreated our first kiss, how sweet.
Modesty smiled at Constance. "What kind of dress are you looking for?"
The wind rushes against the silver armor like an invisible cloak. There is freedom behind the mask. As the powerful body moves, the mind of Silverbolt goes through what his treacherous mentor taught him.
One, stay focused on your goal and let everything else fall away. Your personal life doesn't belong here. The heavy greaves padded across the scratchy straw thatch of an older building before they slammed against the much harder clay tiles of the next structure.
Two, don't overthink it. The job is simple. You get in, get out, and move on to the next rescue. Steel gray eyes stare at the rooftops ahead. No sign of the newcomer. No one was in the alley.
Three, don't think like you. Get inside the head of your quarry. What motivates them? Is it fear? Greed? Duress? The heart-shaped mask stared into the distance. My horned friend watched from a rooftop. Why? I dressed like a civilian and looked like every other noble douche. Maybe the newcomer knows us somehow?
The hero opted to start with Clara's house. After all, she did ask him to train her. Silverbolt remembered he used to check on his friends and allies when time permitted it. I hope I'm wrong.
Schaefer's estate was alive with animals. Deer, squirrels, rabbits, mice littered the grounds in full view. Clara, what have you done? Animals don't group like this. The animals encircled the building and created a wall of fur between the hero and the front door.
The animals parted and created an eerie path to the steps. Are the animals under Clara's control, or is something else controlling them? The front door was ajar, and a single hand pushed it wide open. It's not trapped. Even if Clara isn't here, I should go over this place again. I missed something.
The hero made no noise while he slunk to the hidden door near the fireplace. The once bloodstained walls of the torture chamber seemed brighter, and the stench of death no longer hung in the air like an unwanted houseguest. Clara wouldn't use this room unless an emergency forced her hand.
If any hint of Lord Schaefers's activities existed before his arrival, the hero would never know. A house filled with secrets. I wonder how many more it has.
Silverbolt went to the second floor. Idina's former room looked as it did the night they pulled her from the bed. He noticed a strange ichor on the bed. An empty bottle with a stopper stared at him from the nightstand. It couldn't hurt to get this stuff analyzed, whatever it is. He took a sample and tucked it into his weapon belt.
Most of the rooms were in generic use. Guest rooms, bathrooms, display rooms all very forgettable and not worth the time of day. The study proved to be another matter altogether. What do I know about rooms like this one? It was where men primarily conducted their private business. I think its the predecessor to the man cave.
He approached the hardwood desk and tore all the locked drawers out. He emptied them, examined their contents, and tapped them for false bottoms and found nothing. The other drawers yielded nothing as well. Was I wrong about Lord Schaefer? Maybe he didn't keep a journal, damnit. A metal-clad fist struck the corner of the desk, and a hidden drawer slid out of the side. There, wrapped in a cloth and bound with a chain covered in rings, was a journal.
Soft footfalls came from behind him Silverbolt tensed up, ready to strike with the speed of an angry viper. "I wouldn't attack me from behind, Clara. Even with your new abilities, my experience would crush you."
Clara's familiar voice sounded annoyed. "You are trespassing on my property. I will ask you once to leave, and then all bets are off."
Silverbolt turned to face Clara. Armor made from bone and chainmail adorned her tight slender form. The horned helmet almost seemed to glow green in the dull light of the candles and lanterns. The soulful brown eyes had lost their mischievous twinkle. Her bow-like mouth remained flat and straight.
"The look suits you. I like the way the stag horns curl forward. It gives the helmet a little something extra." She is a fledgling hero. I don't think she is ready to dive into her father's murderous world without help.
The whites of Clara's teeth flashed. "Whatever you found belongs to me. It may lead to Lord Schaefer." She stretched her hand out and made the hand it over gesture.
"Call me Lady Wildhunt or Wildhunt. I have no desire to be Clara, right now."
"Answer me this, Wildhunt, why on earth would you follow us to the tailors? You had to know I was going to investigate your appearance. As the lead hero in Ivorhaven, it's my job to check out the newcomers."
Clara turned her back and crossed her arms. "I wanted to see you, but Constance was around, and Modesty was there. What is she like?"
"Oh, she's a hoot." Silverbolt stood next to the new hero and held out the journal. "Here, it's yours. I don't steal from good people anyway. Did you find the ichor on your mother's bed?"
Soulful brown eyes stared at the chain made of rings. "No. I avoid Idina's room. The guilt overwhelms me the moment I get near it, and I freeze up."
"Which is why we will hunt your father together. Gabe is skirting the line of sanity. He moved out of his parent's place and into the new headquarters. He's worried about you." He motioned for her to follow him,
Clara held her ground. "What should I do about Gabe?"
"Tell him you need a friend more than anything else right now. It's all you can do." Silverbolt turned and headed to the door. "You still want that hero training?"
Clara nodded without hesitation and enthusiasm. "Yes."
"Then you have to come back to base. I won't teach someone who isn't there."
Wildhunts eyes looked pained. For a moment, Silverbolt thought she would decline the offer. "You have a deal."
Constance twirled around in her dress and giggled girlishly. "How do I look?" The ivory-colored dress accentuated her young curves. "This is the one. Ethan will love it."
Modesty and Sophie clapped for the bride to be. "That took far longer than any of us expected. It's getting late, and Ethan is probably waiting for you," Sophie said. "I'll pay for the dress. Take the carriage home."
Modesty stood beside Sophie. "We have all your measurements. It will be ready on the day." Her eyes seemed strange. "Say hi to Silverbolt for me."
"Consider it done." Modesty says hi, Ethan.
Crystal blue eyes knitted in thought while soft hands braided the midnight black hair. I expected Ethan to be the jealous one between the two of us. I can see it in his eyes whenever some lovesick admirer approaches me, but he never says a word.
The carriage stopped at headquarters, and Constance thanked the driver with a gold coin. She opened the door and saw the armor of bone and chain. The deer skull helm revealed the deep brown eyes filled with pain.
Ethan found Clara. Gabe must be over the moon. Wait, why is she standing so close to Ethan? "Aren't you going to greet your fiance, Ethan?"
The mask slid of the handsome face and the steel grey eyes locked onto hers. "It's been a long day, and I am so glad to see you." He touched his lips on hers and pressed her tight against him.
Every kiss is like magic. "Ethan, we are in front of others." Constance blushed.
"Well..." He kissed her again, and Constance giggled when their lips parted. "You make a strong argument." I feel like the only woman in the room.
He gestured to Clara, "Constance, meet Wildhunt."
"Pleased to meet you. Will Silverbolt be teaching you the finer points of being a champion?"
The horned skull nodded. "Yes. Silverbolt found Lord Schaefers's secret journal. We think he has a hideout somewhere in the city. Lord Midgely is going over it now and pulling out all relevant information."
"How is he doing?" It must be torture to be so near to Clara and not being able to touch her.
Wildhunt headed to the stairs. "I am going to turn in for the night. What time do we begin?"
Silverbolt embraced Constance and said, "Sunrise. Constance will be joining us."
"Excuse me?" I don't remember agreeing to this.
"I get your power has been inactive for the last five days, but you need to learn to control it at the very least." Silverbolt sounded concerned.
Wildhunt crossed her arms. "Just think of him spending all that time alone with me."
Bitch. Why would she say something like that? "I sincerely hope you meant to motivate me."
Wildhunt didn't respond and vanished up the stairs. Constance scowled until she was out of sight. Silverbolt looked down at her. "Everything okay?"
"No. I hate the idea of you spending too much time with Clara" I must look like a jealous idiot.
Silverbolt gestured to a bench and sat down, and Constance found a seat beside him. "Constance, in case you didn't know, you are my first everything. My first dance, kiss, romantic gesture all belong to you. Yes, you are the first woman I fell in love with."
I thought Ethan had more experience than I did. "You never told me that."
He gestured to his armor. "The last thing my life needs is more of this. I like being with you. I like how we talk about other things besides being a hero. I love the fact there is a life waiting for me outside the armor. You made all of it possible."
Constance didn't say a word. She sat on his lap and laid her head on his shoulder with a silly smile on her face. I feel better but Wildhunt makes me uneasy for some reason. I hope we can trust her.