A villain is discovered.
| Constance stared at Gabe Midgely in his new garb. The priest's robe mimicked the night sky, alive with stars and wonder accentuated by a pure white surcoat decorated with a gold crescent moon wrapped around a Celtic style hare. His eyes, once a gentle hazel, now shone an opalescent color. Fingerless gloves gripped a silver birch staff with the crescent moon and hare at the top. Dull colored hair turned platinum and grew to shoulder length. The other hand clutched an opal dowsing crystal.
"How do you feel?" Constance asked.
Midgely stared into the hand mirror and then put it down. "For better or worse, I am now a child of Andraste. I can see things now."
A slight roll of the crystal blue eyes and a tiny scoff escaped the ruby lips. "I should hope so. You were born with two eyes."
Gabe scowled and waved his hand, "That's not what I meant. For instance, you are a child of the All-Mother. Your aura forms her symbol. I wonder what Silverbolt's looks like?"
Time to move things along. "Can you find the spirit of Lady Idina now?"
The gloved hands tied the platinum hair back, "It may take a minute or two. I have never done this before. Did you find out what you can do yet?"
I hate this everyone seems to be getting a handle on their situation except me. Maybe I have to speak with the All-mother? "My powers confound me for the moment. I have no idea what they are or how to activate them."
Midgely pulled the dowsing crystal off his neck and held it in the palm of his hand. "I wouldn't worry too much about it. Your abilities will surface sooner or later." He took a deep breath and clutched the crystal tightly in his palm. The staff did lazy circles around his palm as he chanted, "Bi nad chombaist dha anam." A soft glow came from his palm. "I warn you now it may not lead us to Idina."
"What?" Did he make a bargain with a goddess for nothing?
"Andraste said it takes time to hone in on specific spirits and other spiritual beings." He held the dowsing crystal aloft and waved his hand. It pointed behind him and kept its position in mid-air. "As you can see, the dowser does not distinguish between walls and the outside."
I don't worry about his power, but we still have one major obstacle. "Midgely, how long does your nerve potion last?"
Midgely's face reddened to the tips of his ears. "I forgot about that. It lasts for two to three hours per dose, and I can only do it twice a day. The physician said the elixir's addictive and fatal if overused."
"Then we should get going." Constance and Midgely ran to the stables and saddled their horses. The Dowser pointed to the highway out of town. The pair directed their steeds down the thoroughfare.
Twenty minutes of riding took them to an abandoned shack located on the outskirts of town. On the cracked wooden door was a wanted poster. Midgely pulled the tattered page off the nail. "Wanted Gus Sixsmith. Reward a hundred silver coins." He whistled. "A person could live comfortably on that out here....wasn't Sixsmith Idina's maiden name?"
Clara is my best friend, and I know nothing about her. "We never talked about our families. Although, I do remember mother saying something about a scandal at the Schaefer estate. Something about Schaefer taking up with a common girl."
Midgely stared at the picture for a little longer. "I never heard the rumor myself. My parents don't cater to gossip. How about we check the local Tavern. The crystal is pointing towards it anyway." He pocketed the wanted poster. "Here's a question. If Idina died in Ivorhaven, why did the crystal lead us here? The Codex Spiritum said earthbound ghosts often haunt the site of their death."
Constance noticed the smile on his face. I am glad to see the smile on his face. He does have a point though, why would the dowsing crystal lead us here? "Is it possible in Idina's mind meeting Lord Schaefer was the beginning of the end for Lady Idina?"
"The only way to know is to ask around," Midgely said.
Meanwhile, On a rooftop in another isolated section of the city, called Dragonfly Villas, two heroes hold their breath. Gases emitted by the near toxic water gripped their nose hairs with a vengeance. The ramshackle houses sat on stilts above the water.
"I'll give you three guesses as to where they drop the excrement," Wildhunt said. "Doesn't it bother you?"
Silverbolt stood stalwart against the offensive aroma and shrugged. "I've smelled worse. Once again, it's something you'll have to get used to."
"What if I don't want to?"
"Then you should go home and be a noblewoman. Heroes hang on for a minute longer than everyone else and dare to try when everyone backs out. Both statements are at the very core of what it means to be a hero." The metal-clad hero surveyed the area. "Anyway, this is a great place to hide the Old One."
The stag helmet turned sideways, "How do you figure that?"
"The old one is a giant moose. You wouldn't think it, but moose love the water and enjoy diving for the aquatic plants at the bottom. A swamp will have a lot of delectables to tease the overgrown hatracks stomach."
"How do I not know any of this?" Wildhunt crossed her arms in frustration. I had the best education money could buy, and out here, none of it means a thing."
I remember feeling this way in the beginning. "Wildhunt, you are new to the game. What you learned means more than you think. Understanding the political system in Ivorhaven is an asset. Never forget, learning is a lifelong endeavor and shouldn't stop at school."
Wildhunt seemed pleased with his answer. "Let me guess, Hexfist, told you the same?"
"More or less. What do you know about Dragonfly Villas?"
"The people here harvest peat and sell it at the market. Peat burns longer than wood in most cases. A few frog farmers reside here. The legs are a delicacy among the nobles. My father dealt with Pandy Gillis. He breeds titan frogs."
"Does he keep his ear to the ground?"
Wildhunt nodded and pointed to the wooden deck below. "They share the swamp with a pair of mishipeshu. The farmers offer frogs once a week to keep the beasts happy."
"Let's give Pandy a visit."
Constance stared at the rustic Tavern and wrinkled her nose a little at the smell. "Does everything smell like manure?" she whispered.
Midgely chuckled, "Farmers use manure to get higher yields from their crops. I would be concerned if I didn't smell it at all."
A brief survey of the small dirty room revealed a man with an enormous black hat. It took a moment for Constance to register where she had seen it before. "Rexword," She hissed. Her hand went straight to the parasol blade. It slithered from the scabbard without a noise.
Midgely tried to stop her, "Constance now isn't the time to be settling old scores. We are trying to put a spirit to rest, not create a new one."
The scabbard batted the priest's hand away. "I want answers, and I will get them." She pressed the cold steel against the neck of Rexword. "Stand up and walk outside."
Not a word came from the other side of the hat. It was strange because Rexword was known for talking everyone's ears off about his Royal Guard days. To his credit, he was a skilled swordsman.
She pressed the sword's tip a little harder into the soft flesh. "Answer me." She demanded.
Rexword stood a foot taller than the noblewoman, and his goblin-like features scowled at her. "I quit working for Tuxley. The man is coming unglued. He is assembling dangerous creatures and putting the Mask of Faun on them."
Constance flipped her midnight hair over her shoulder and pressed the blade a little harder, "Why should we believe you?"
The former lackey pointed to his face. "How do you think this happened. The Mask Of Faun grants powers to the wearer, but it also twists your outer appearance to reflect what's inside. El Sombreron was a family tale passed down in my family. A cautionary tale about falling for someone you hardly know."
Midgely stared at the former lackey and shook his head. "Whose symbol is the death moth? Your aura is stamped with the winged insect."
"Who's this?" The goblin asked.
"Gabriel Midgely, the high priest of Andraste," the nobleman bowed.
"Midgely? Impressive, I was wrong about you. I assume you didn't come here for me."
"We'll call it an added bonus," Constance said. "Have you heard rumors about a woman in white?"
Yellow bestial eyes became slits. "Funny you should say that. Lady Victoria hired me to find a woman in white. Her fiance, Lord Pankhurst, went missing a few days ago."
I wonder if she offered herself in exchange for his services. "Where were his guards?"
Rexword hung his head in shame. "As some of us know, Lord Pankhurst, likes to frequent the Delirious Butterfly. He never returned from his last visit. Pankhursts guards waited outside for hours."
Both Constance and Midgely looked at each other and exchanged dubious expressions. "Did they find Lord Pankhurst?" Midgely Asked.
The grotesque swordsman leaned forward and spoke in a low voice. "His death mirrored Spencers. Pankhurst, ended up a dried husk. Eyewitnesses said a woman who looked like Lady Idina took him to a room. When a working girl opened the door, she found the husk of Lord Pankhurst."
What would Ethan do in this situation? I think he would attempt to make a truce. "The enemy of my enemy is my friend, temporarily, of course. We should join forces to eliminate this threat." Constance's tone expressed the seriousness of her idea.
Midgely put up his hands and walked away from the table. "I'm out. I refuse to work with the likes of him. He was Tuxleys right-hand man...."
Gabriel, is such a child. As nobles, we will deal with low lives from time to time. It's an unavoidable aspect of our station. "Grow up, lives are on the line, and you have real responsibilities."
"I felt the sting from over here," Rexword quipped.
"This thing tried to kidnap you..." Gabe started to say.
"It's in the past. Besides, with looks like that, Rexword will suffer every day for the rest of his life." Constance sheathed the parasol blade.
"She's not wrong. The Delirious Butterfly banned me. Most taverns kick me out. Shops refuse to take my money. I have to pay someone to do my shopping. The only person accepting my coin is the blacksmith." Rexword said. Regret dripped off every word.
Gabriel growled. "How do I know you won't betray us?"
"How do I know you won't betray me? You aren't the only one taking a risk. Do you think I want to be in the same room as Silverbolt? The man wants to hoist me up by my petard." The fanged mouth spoke the truth.
The priest swore and pointed at the goblin visage of Rexword. "I agree he should join us. Cross me once, and I will gift wrap you for Silverbolt."
Rexword took a deep breath and grinned. He stared at the clock. "Twenty minutes until sundown. We should hit the highway. Idina is due to appear soon."
Wildhunt and Silverbolt found the half-devoured body of Pandy in his small hut. The bitemarks were human-sized, and fresh stab wounds permeated the uneaten parts.
"Looks like we have a new playmate in the area. I suggest we keep our heads on a swivel." Silverbolt studied the inside of the dusty lodge. "I think whoever did this is looking for the Old One too," Silverbolt looked over at Wildhunt, who chanted.
A flash of green light and the spectral wolf appeared. "I want to try something. Cernunnos said I can connect with the wolf's senses."
Why does that sound like a bad idea? "Are you sure about this? A wolf's senses are far more acute than any human." Too late, she's chanting already.
"Ceangail na mothachaidhean." She covered her ears and nose. "I can hear and smell everything. I think I'm going to be sick. Leigeil ma sgaoil." She seemed fine until she covered her mouth and fell on all fours. A jet of bile and breakfast shot out next to the body.
Silverbolt held her hair back, "Did you miss the part where I said a wolf's senses are greater than a humans?" Friggin rookies.
Another jet of bile landed next to the first. "I wasn't expecting it to be so overwhelming," Wildhunt said between gasps. "I feel better now."
Time to try and teach her investigation. "Okay, what does the room tell us about the killer?" Silverbolt saw at least four things.
The horned helmet looked left to right. "How am I supposed to know. I've never done this before." She said impatiently. "Haven't I been embarrassed enough for one day."
She's about to be disappointed. "It's going to happen from time to time. Will you sacrifice lives to protect your pride?"
"How dare you ask that question? This man is dead. There is nothing to be learned here."
"Wrong, look again, using your human senses."
"You're a terrible teacher, you know."
"You still think like a noble and not a hunter. How do you find an animal? Through its habits. How do you track villains? Through their habits, because criminals are creatures of habit." Silverbolt banged his gauntlets together to emphasize the point.
"If you're so good, why don't you tell me what you see." Wildhunt said.
I hated this part of my training too. It's only now I see how necessary it is. "Okay, for starters we're dealing with a person with cannibalistic tendencies. Teeth marks on the body are evidence of this. Our guy prefers a blade and is angry. Twelve stab wounds indicate overkill."
Wildhunt crossed her arms and scoffed. "Why would the intruder kill?"
Good question. "I think someone else came here looking for the Old One, too. Chances are they knew Pandy, and killed him to keep others from finding the Old One."
"Lord Schaefer," Wildhunt said in a soft tone. "He knew Pandy and probably found out where Tuxley was hiding the Old One. His twisted form could require a new diet, and his elbows look deadlier than most knives."
Steel grey eyes noticed a map on the wall. The faded parchment had two clear circular marks on it. One marked with a T, the other marked with a skull and crossbones. "I think the T is for Tuxley. The mishipeshu probably hangs out in the skull and crossbones area."
Wildhunt snatched the map from the wall. "Just in case."
"I was about to do the same."
"Why do you think Lord Schaefer wants the Old One?"
Silverbolt shrugged. "Schaefer may not be behind this. However, were I him. The Old One could be a bargaining chip to return to become human again."
"Do you think that's possible?"
Silverbolt shook his head. "No, otherwise we'd have more monsters like Schaefer running around." metal fists gripped the meteor hammer's chain. "In any event, I feel sorry for whoever killed Pandy because they have to deal with us."