The continued adventures.
| In the city of Ivorhaven, on a lonely and forgotten street, an old trade house is the only place alive with activity. The first rays of dawn lit the cobblestone. A small flock of chickadees watched the curious action below.
The heart-shaped mask with the crossed lightning bolts watched the be-gowned fairy maiden and the noblewoman wrapped in bone and chainmail rise and fall in unison. Their arms shook with each push-up, unused to the physical exertion.
The mass of leather and metal joined them and finished a set before the pair got through the next five. "Your powers will sap your strength with each use. You can't put up any defense with a weak body."
The fairy maiden fluttered her wings and fell flat on her chest from exhaustion. "I can't do anymore, Ethan. My arms feel like they're about to fall off." She shot the hero a soulful look.
"You did well. I was expecting you to be worse."
The fairy maiden scoffed, put her hands on her hips, and scowled at the masked man. "Excuse me? I am a Reynard, and we excel in everything we do."
What is so satisfying about making her mad? "Except push-ups."
The mass of chain and bone rose. "I'm about done as well..."
"Five more." Silverbolt barked.
Wildhunt scowled, "No, Constance doesn't have to. I shouldn't have to either."
"Does that mean your ready for the streets now?" I know you're not. You have to realize it.
Constance stood in front of Silverbolt and held out her arms to hold the pair back from one another. "We can't afford to fight among ourselves."
Wildhunt shoved the fairy maiden aside. "You could take it easy on me...oooh," A metal fist hit her in the gut. The air whooshed out of Wildhunts lungs, and her bone armor clattered against the dull grey cobblestone. Her leather gauntlets clutched the flat stomach.
Constance backed away from her fiance and stared at him. "You hit a lady..."
I should explain myself, but let's see if Wildhunt can figure it out. "Stay out of it, Constance. I did it for a reason, an important one." The metal-clad body shifted to the horse stance. "An enemy won't take it easy on you. I won't either."
Wildhunt rose after she steadied her breath. "I have powers...oooh." Another fist slammed into her gut. She fell to the cobblestone on her knees.
"Ethan, that's enough..."
"No, not until she understands." I had to learn the hard way too. It sucks, but it's the only way the message will sink in.
"Understands what?" Wildhunt asked between ragged gasps. The brown eyes, ruled by determination, stared into the steel grey orbs of Silverbolt.
"If you are so skilled with your powers, show me how they work."
Once Wildhunt regained her breath, she waved a leather gauntlet and shouted, "Madadh-allaidh speurail." a pool of greenish energy slowly morphed into a dire wolf with jagged hair and fierce fangs.
Silverbolt saw how weakened she was from a single cast. A metal greave covered in static charge struck the spectral wolf. It whimpered and vanished. "Summon it again."
"Ethan, must you be so harsh? We are not earth. People don't have guns..." Constance pleaded.
The hero ignored his fiance. "Can't you summon it again?"
The bone helm stared at the ground, and the ivory-colored boots shuffle against the stone. "I wouldn't be able to fight on if I did."
She is starting to see the point. "Do you understand why things have to be as they are for now?"
Constance continued to glare at Silverbolt. "I am not happy with you..."
Wildhunt growled and pushed Constance aside. "He's right. How can I protect anyone if I can't hold even the least of my abilities."
She got there a little slower than I did, but the point is she made it. "Exactly." He paused and tried to embrace Constance, who backed away.
"I'm still mad at you. Your methods..." Constance grumbled.
"My methods are far gentler than Hexfists. She won't just be fighting humans. We have Tuxley and his ability to make nightmares real. Not to mention inherents and who knows what else lives in the woods." He inched closer to Constance, who kept her arms crossed and the parasol planted in front of her.
"I hope you won't treat our children like this."
Way too early for that discussion. "Of course, I won't. I'm not a monster, you know."
Wildhunt cleared her throat. "Constance, stop treating me like a lady. I chose this path, a path filled with unladylike behavior, devoid of the comforts I know and love. Was I expecting it to be this hard? No. Is it necessary? Yes."
Good, she may survive long enough to test the limits of her abilities. "That's all I wanted to hear from you." Silverbolt looked at the time on his MP3 player. "We are almost out of time. Before we finish, what is the wolf capable of?"
Wildhunt got a strange look on her face, and her hands played with a stray lock of gold spun hair. "It can do everything a wolf can. Track for hours on end..."
Silverbolt grabbed Constance and kissed her. The unearthly body vanished and changed Constance back to her near-perfect human state. "I know how we can find the old one. I'll explain at breakfast.
Madame Cuttle shook her head as she escorted them to the stables. "Lady Clara, are you sure about the life you've chosen for yourself? It's a bit unseemly to go running around with someone else's betrothed." Her tone was critical.
"I've always wanted to be a warrior. My family life had little to do with it. I envied Silverbolt more than I did Constance." Wildhunt turned to Silverbolt. "How is this going to help again?"
I like teaching. Maybe I could start a training academy. "All dogs have a keener sense of smell than a human. A wolf has an even greater sense of smell than that. If your spectral friend has all the abilities of a wolf, it should be able to key in on the Old One's scent."
"Makes sense. Coming?" Wildhunt asked.
"It's probably best if I wait outside. Horses can smell the electricity on me and get squirrelly."
The spectral wolf appeared and entered the wooden structure without incident. Madame Cuttle's eyes hadn't left the hero since he arrived. "You disapprove?"
"Yes." Madame Cuttle pulled at her hair. "Cernunnos was always a morally ambiguous god. He preserves the balance between nature and the world of man. I wouldn't be surprised if her path leads you two to conflict."
"Until time makes a fool of me, I will trust Wildhunt."
"No matter who she serves, Clara, is one of our own, and we take care of our own."
Madame Cuttles' eyes softened at his words. "How does Constance feel about all of this?"
"Constance is a bit insecure about it. She sees Clara as competition for the moment." Silverbolt said. He watched the door and chuckled. "Poor kid must have trouble summoning the wolf."
"Clara looks as beautiful as Constance. I can see why she would be leery of her." Madame Cuttle stood beside the hero. Her emerald eyes glued to the door.
A metallic laugh came from the mask. "I fell for Constance the moment I met her. I have never been in love before. Hell, I didn't even know it could happen to me."
The spectral wolf appeared with Wildhunt in tow. "He's got the Old One's scent. I found out I can talk to animals. The horses almost gabbed my ears off."
Madame Cuttle headed back to the main building. "Be careful, you two. I am sure your loved ones want you back in one piece."
Constance padded into the makeshift alchemy lab where Lord Midgely experimented on the ichor from Lady Schaefers's room.
Thick dusty books were open. Midgely flipped through them with a maniacal obsession.
I know Silverbolt talks with him, but I haven't said much to Midgely since Clara made her choice. I don't know what to say. Constance stepped silently up beside the young lord. "How is it going?"
Midgely rubbed his eyes and looked up from the dusty books. "Idina may have died, but her spirit is loose. The ichor Silverbolt found is ghost matter. It isn't the usual variety either." He held up the musty book titled. "The Codex Spiritum"
"More than one kind of spirit? Are you sure it's Idina?"
"No, you can't be sure of anything when it comes to spirits. Some spirits mimick loved ones others are loved ones who look demonic. Some are spirits but have a physical body." He pointed to the ooze in the bottle. "Identifying the ghost matter is the best way to figure out what kind of ghost it is. They all leave it behind in one shape or another."
The young noblewoman took a moment to admire the dedication of the distraught nobleman. "How are you dealing with Clara's changes?"
Midgely gave Constance a blank stare. His average features grew pained as he spoke. "We talked about where we are. I don't care for the way she looks at Silverbolt."
"Are you mad at Ethan?" I hate how jealous Clara makes me feel.
"No. How can I be? I watched Silverbolt struggle with the way he felt about you. I know she approached him after her dealings with Cernunnos. It's not surprising. Clara's family heritage is rooted in the horned one. There's a hidden shrine in her house."
"Have you considered joining her?" I wanted to join Ethan, but I love being a noble too much, and the thought of hurting anyone is distasteful to me.
Midgely Scoffed and pointed to the books. "Our family has prided ourselves on collecting knowledge. I don't want to be a liability on the battlefield. How is her training going?"
"He didn't hold back on Clara. She got up in his face twice. It confused..." She trailed off. Maybe this is not the best use of my time. All it's doing is adding to Midgely's misery and mine. "You know what, it doesn't matter. Would you like some help identifying the ichor?"
A smile touched the young lord's lips. "I would be Honored, Lady Constance."
Luckily Midgely had two copies of the Codex Spiritum. He started in the front, Constance began in the back. The words she read chilled her to the bone. I never realized how complicated the afterlife was.
"Ah-ha, gotcha." Midgely cried. "Page seventy-five."
Constance gingerly turned the vellum pages and read. "Woman in white. The spirit of a woman who was married and mistreated or killed by her lover/husband. Let me guess we can thank Lord Schaefer for this extra headache?"
Midgely rummaged around for another book. "Well, if you think about it. Lady Idina was the perfect candidate for such a change. Lord Schaefer was a cruel man. Rumor has it Clara's grandfather abused Idina as well."
"The poor woman didn't stand a chance."
"If she had renounced her title and inheritance, she may have had one. The prevailing theory is Idina chose to continue the cycle. Say, do you want to try and catch her ourselves?" For a moment, the twinkle returned to Gabe's eyes.
"I don't know, Gabe. Today was the first time I used my powers on purpose, and you pass out at the drop of a hat."
Gabe held up a vial. "A special potion to help me with my condition, and I have a way to trap her."
Why is he so eager to get out. Is he trying to prove he can keep up with Wildhunt? Is he trying to fill the empty hours until Clara returns to his arms? I'll admit, the days are tedious and boring, hanging out here all day. "How dangerous is this going to be?"
Midgely flashed an excited grin. "If we follow the instructions in the codex, it should be a milk run with two people. What could go wrong?"
"Lead the way, My lord." Why do I feel uneasy about this?
Silverbolt and Wildhunt chased the spectral wolf through the streets of Rathmore. The beastly apparition would stop and wait to ensure they kept up with it. Clara sweat profusely from the exertion of it all.
She's held the wolf for almost fifteen minutes. Pretty impressive for her first time. It's stayed in this area for the last five minutes. We must be close to our goal. "Where are we?"
Wildhunt waved her hand, and the hound vanished. "Sorry, I was at my limit. She pointed to buildings in disrepair, and the sounds of poverty drifted into the night wind. "This is Dipperhaven, a subdivision where people go to vanish. No one asks, and no one tells."
"I believe you. Why take the Old One here? I don't see a noble setting up shop in the worst area of the city. I can barely get Constance to eat from a food stand."
Wildhunt shivered involuntarily. "Dipper haven is a great place to hide things. It would be easy to find someone to care for the beast."
Silver greaves stepped over some refuse. and watched a pair of rats scurry off with bits of a dead dog. "Yeah, but how can Tuxley be sure the idiot he hires won't abscond with the beast and the golden bridle?"
"The cost. We both know the ancient animal eats more than three cows combined. No one in Dipperhaven has that kind of money. Selling him is out of the question as well. The only people who can afford the care of such a beast are nobles, and Lord Tuxley would find out."
That all fits nicely together. "Whoever cares for the Old One can't take the bridle without pissing the overgrown hatrack off either." Some information wouldn't hurt right about now. "Does Dipperhaven have a brothel?"
Wildhunt crossed her arms and turned her back to Silverbolt. "I hardly think this is a time to deal with your manly urges."
She remembers who she's talking to, right? "Why do you assume I have manly urges?"
"All of you do. Midgely told me Granville went once or twice in his youth. Midgely himself admitted to checking the place out. He didn't take up with any of the girls, but they did teach him a thing or two about romance..." Wildhunts eyes softened, and her exposed mouth and cheeks were crimson.
Time to flip the script. "If powerful men go to the brothel. Does it stand to reason those men talk to the working girls about their daily affairs?"
"I suppose...Oh, you see them as a source of information." She paused. "Wait, are you still a..."
Here we go. "A virgin? Yes." He drew the batons. "A we going to contemplate the finer points of my love life, or are we going to see if anyone knows anything?"
Wildhunt strode into the lead. "Follow me."
The Delirious Butterfly was the best-maintained building in the area. Fresh paint, brass butterfly door handles, gave the place a hint of class Girls paraded in front of it, showing off their wares to find buyers.
"We have money, right?" Silverbolt asked.
"I have a few gold coins on me. Why?" Wildhunt asked.
"Talk is cheap. Information can be expensive. Why are they wearing men's clothes and red hats?"
Wildhunt shrugged, "You'll have to ask them. It is my first time here as well." She opened her coin purse and counted ten gold. "I hope this isn't a waste of time."
"It won't be. If no one has seen anything, then we know Tuxley is trying to stay off the grid. If we find out about his goons, we get their names and squeeze every last bit of info out of them."
Wildhunts eyes regarded Silverbolt as crazy. "Will we be doing this often?"
"Find out the plan, find the villain. If you can get ahead of them, all the better. Now lets go."