Cold Rain A JDF Story

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Roberts Random Ruminations

We go back to the world of Dragon Wind red with another short story. A murder has taken place among the dukes of the land and before it turns into a killing spree Redordo Dragonspawn and her team must find the killer before its too late.

 

Cold Rain

A JDF Story

 

I find rain satisfying, No sure why, but standing in the rain waiting for the carriage to arrive while the rest of the team huddles together under the tiny awning does not seem as appealing to me as standing in the cold rain. Maybe it's because I tend to run warm that I enjoy the cold water on my clothing. I am sure I was getting some weird looks as I stood there from the passerby. I wave at the carriage driver who gives me a look of confusion as to why a young lady dressed in men's clothing is standing in the rain hailing a carriage. But his look went from confusion to shock as the rest of the team came out from the awning to join me in getting into the carriage. A small dwarf with a brownie on his shoulder, a tough looking junor depuy a Young black haired woman and an old man came out to join me and we all piled into the carriage. I gave the driver plenty of gold and said, “King Rumerds castle please” the driver saw the gold and nodded curtly. And we were off to our next mission in the grand city of Everdown eighty miles from base and we were once again on our way to solve a grusom murder. 

 

“The evidence is scattered at best” we were riding in the carriage as i started to talk to the team, “what we know is this, the kingdom has been in turmoil since the princess ran off with some random duke. “The king has been searching for them for at least a week when this attack on the castle took place. The rumors are that this attack is to force the king to call off the search. Now the murder itself was by dagger and seemed simple enough, but the victim seems to be completely random. A duke of minor nobility with no known enemies. So our job is to see if this is just a random act or if there is a potential for this to be related to the daughters running away. The whole thing may just be the paranoia of an emotional king but we will need to be sure. So the first step is for us to round up witnesses, examin the area where the murder took place and hopefully find enough clues to uncover who the murder is.” Fran-Kin frowned, “what do we know about the murder?” “Well,” i started looking at the letter i had been sent the week before from the King, “it says here, that the killer seems to know the schedule of the guards as they timed the killings between shifts. Also that there were parts missing from the corps that were removed after they were killed. Or at least that is what they think happened.” Corton grimaced, “that does not sound pleasant at all, when was the last killing?” I turned over a page, “well the killings take place every week, with four killings haven taken place so far. They say that they were afraid another one would be happening soon. Then yesterday I got a scry orb message from our contact this morning that another body had been found. Thus the rush job to get down there. They have promised not to move the body till we get there.”

 

Chapter 2 

 

Nobody loves blood, especially me, I never have seen so much in my life before this day. I stood with the team in the grand hall of the kings palace with Fran-Kin and Ellie next to me with Corton handling the crowds and keeping them away from the scene. Gregor was looking at the body while Bethanie was talking to the captain of the guard. She came back over to me a few moments later, “ we will be able to have a space at the back of the servants area to set up. The king will give us a set of rooms while we are here.” I nodded “thank you, Fran-Kin, we need to round up witnesses. Can you and Ellie work on that while I look over the scene with Gregor?” Fran-Kin grunted and Ellie looked stressed. “Is there a problem?” The both shook their heads, “no” Ellie said quietly as they walked over to the crowd. I shook my head, I had hoped that they would be getting along better by now, I walked over to Gregor, “so what do we have?” Gregor stood up shakily, “not as young as i once was, ow… heh, sorry, so it looks like this duke was attacked from over there in the hall, and theses marks show that he was dragged to over here, once he was placed, and he was placed in a very specific way, the killer exited down the servants entrance. So if anyone saw them it would have been the servants. So I would question them first.” i nodded, “that sounds like a good start, What other evidence or objects do we have?” Gregor reached out and handed me something small. “Here, take a look at this.” I took the small object, “ok well this is going to change things. We will need Ellie to look at this right away.” I walked quickly over to where Ellie and Fran-Kin were talking to servants and other standers by. “Fran-Kin work with Corton while I take Ellie to look at an item we found. Bethanie? Can you join us?” We left the crime scene and headed to the area behind the servants quarters where a small room was being set up with a small lab, scrying orb and writing tools as we were standing there. I gestured for the servants working to leave, “please can we have the room?” They all stopped for a moment, looked at us then then left the room quietly. I closed the door behind them. “Ok, so we found this at the scene”, I showed Ellie the small stone, “this stone, as you may know, has runes on it that identify this as the order of the seers. This stone was found at the scene when the killing took place. Or was placed there after. Either way it could lead to very serious complications. So whatever you see Ellie we need to keep it very quiet. Bethanie, you need to reach out to your contacts and see if you can quietly get the location of the local chapter of the seers and get some names. We will need to give something to the town criers so that we can control the story before rumors start of someone powerful on a killing spree and they are hunting dukes.” Ellie looked pale, “do you think that is what is happening?” “Well,” I sighed, “let’s hope not. But I will leave the truth to you and what you can see.”

 

Chapter 3

 

6 years ago in a small brownie village…

 

Ellie stared at the picture frame for one more moment and placed the acorn shaped item back on her shelf. She missed her mom everyday but this day was especially hard, today was her Conreror celebration, where she would touch the ercron stone and find out if she had magical powers. It was a hard and grueling three day process where she had fasted, meditated and then was cleansed in preparation for her to stand before the whole brownie community and touch the stone, if she did not have powers she would be sent to live outside of the village and find her fortune outside of the comforts of home, if did end up having powers, she would be set up with an power Auraer to help guide her in the use of her powers and then be sent out into the world to help others. So either way she would be leaving her father and brother behind and who knows when she would see them again. Her father broke her out of her musings, “how are you doing? You feeling any more ready for this than you were yesterday?” She tried to smile, “not really, i am not sure I will ever be ready to leave my home and my family. Either i have some sort of powers and leave or I don’t and i still leave.” Her father smiled warmly and put one of his large hands on her shoulder. “To be fair you can come back home once you have shown you have helped others with or without powers, either way this is not the last week that we will see you in your lifetime. And don’t forget we do have a wonderful scrying network that can keep us in touch no matter where you go.” She reached up to her dad and put her arms around his neck, even for a brownie she was short, “I love you dad,” she said with tears in her eyes, “I will miss you even if I can come back some day.” Her dad hugged her back, “ I will miss you too.” He cleared his throat, “come, we don’t want to be late, the seers do not wait for any brownie.”

 

Chapter 4

 

Gregor was standing over the lab set up pouring dark red liquid from one vial to another, grumbling to himself, “nasty business this, dark business, killing dukes…” he was still grumbling when Fran-Kin walked in, “hey Gregor, can I ask you something as you are a very old man, and may know some stuff?” Gregor looked up from the test tubes and frowned, “what do you want you cantankerous dwarf?” “Humph”, Fran-Kin walked over to the workbench and sat on a wooden stool. “Look, I am not a sensitive type, don't like getting close to people, but it seems i have caused Ellie some pain and i want to find a way to make it up to her. I had some success with Bethanie but.. well Ellie seems to not be comfortable talking with me. Out of everyone on the team I trust you to be the most..” he paused for a moment, “the most discreet.” Gregor raised an eyebrow, “heh, I am discreet because no one really pays attention to the old man unless there is something medical to look at. But that's fine, what do you want help with exactly? I don't know much about women in general and even less about brownie women..”  Fran-Kin looked awkward for a moment and shifted uncomfortably on the stool. “I would like to do something nice to make up for what I said to her when we got here, you see, she was fine before I made the comment..” Gregor frowned, “what did you say? I thought you two were ok after the last time?” Fran-Kin looked away for a moment, “well as you know she rides on my shoulder when we are out and about because it is easier for her to keep up with us. So she was on my shoulder, and I said she would…” he paused, then whispered, “make a great parrot for a pirate…” Gregor chuckled, coughed and tried to look serious. “Hmm, that, *cough* is um, not a nice thing to say, so yes I would say you would have to do something extra nice for her to make up for that…” he paused and looked thoughtful for a moment… “I think I should take her for a nice dinner, not a date of course, just two friends and talk…” Gregor chuckled, “well that could work. I mean you do both eat and all. I think that would be a good start but who am I to know.”Gregor smiled and went back to his analysts of the samples collected. Fran-Kin took that as his queue to leave, “ok well I will get back to Corton and continue the process of finding information from those servants and other assorted suspects.”

 

Ellie and I were sitting in one of the rooms that had been set aside for us and she was breathing slowly in and out sitting cross legged in front of me. She was holding the item i had given her earlier and was starting to shimmer as she tended to do when she was sensing where an object had been. I could do nothing as a tear started to roll down her cheek. She started to talk in a quiet voice. “I can see someone in robes holding this stone and walking down the hallway, I can sense their anger their desire for power as the walk up behind the victim. They are doing something with their left hand while holding the stone in their right. I can see their mouth moving, they are…. they are chanting something repeating something over and over. They victim is down on the ground and they are using the item, the knife, it has a black hilt with a snake on it and they are using it to …” she started crying and threw the stone across the room. “No.. i can’t.. it's too much..” I grab her and held her, “Its ok, it ok, that is enough.” I held here for a moment or two more, her soft small body trembling against my shoulder, as I have leaned down to hug her. “Ok… I’m ok now...thank you… they… they were using the knife to take out the dukes eyes and were cutting up his face…. it was awful..” Ellie shuddered one last time and disengaged from my grasp. “I.. I need a break from this for a while. A few days at least. Is that ok?” I smiled at her as i let her go, “of course, just come back when you are ready, take as much time as you need, you have done really well and given us a lot to go on.” She nodded with a little smile, and walked out of the room holding herself. 

 

Chapter 5

 

I checked in with Corton who was not with Fran-Kin when I found him sitting at a desk writing notes and reviewing statements. “You know,” he started looking up from the notes, “I have been meaning to ask, why do they call you red dragons? I mean, not to be rude or anything, but when you transform you are not exactly red.” I smiled at him, “yes, that is true, it is a derogatory term as people saw us as nothing more than killers covered in the blood of the innocent.” Corton stared at me for a moment. “Oh, well, that’s, um…” he kind of looked a way back to his notes for a moment then grunted, “huh, that’s interesting…” I looked at him expectantly as he stayed quiet for a few more moments, “what?” I finally asked, breaking the exasperating silence. “Well, I keep seeing mentioned in all the statements taken that they had heard of this happening before, that there were other bodies found with eyes missing and the faces all cut up. Peasants, local folk, so they did not think much of it, maybe animal attacks or the like. Sounds like our criminal was practicing before doing it for real.” I started pacing, “ok, so if this killer practiced somewhere before, they might have been sloppy, left clues, people may have seen something. Can you. Get a sense from the notes of where these other attacks may have taken place?” 

 

Corton frowned and looked through some more notes for another long moment. “Hmm, ok, it seems in the town of Korbont, it is a place called the shadow forest,” he stood up and walked over to the map of the city and outlying areas, “here” he pointed to a spot not that far away. “Well we can at least say that the killer has an area that they prefer, maybe that means…” I stood thinking for a moment, “maybe that means the live or have a hideout somewhere between all the places where the attacks took place.” Corton nodded, “that could be, we would need to connect the dots and see if there is a convergence between all the practice victims and the duke. We may not have enough data yet.” At that moment Fran-Kin walked in the room, “oh, you are all here… well good, i don’t have to say this twice. So I was with Gregor seeing what info he had uncovered and I ran into one of the servants on the way back here. She said that her former master was killed a few weeks ago and his murder was covered up because he was near a house of… a certain kinds, but they found the body with its eyes cut out. She had heard the guards talking.” I almost smiled for a moment, “that is really good news, i mean information, we were just talking about the locations of the murders and trying to see if we might find a place where they could converge and maybe find a hideout or something that might lead us to our killer!” I was excited to see if this idea would pan out, not of course excited about another victim, i was not sure, by the looks on their faces that everyone else understood that, “I mean, it would be a great tool in catching criminals like this if they work in an area of comfort, you know a pattern where we could track them back to a hideout or their home.” I felt I was rambling a little at this point so I stood quiet for a moment. They both looked at each other, shrugged and Fran-Kin walked over to the map and joined Corton and myself. We all looked at the map and Fran-kin started circling spots as Corton read his notes confirming the other places mentioned by the people we had interviewed. 

 

We were not liking the dots so far as the area covered was quite large. So we were all staring at the map frowning at it when Gregor walked in, “I think i found something in the victim.” We all turned around and just stared at him. “Well more precisely in the victim's blood. I was looking at the blood I had collected from the wound in the duke's face and it seems that the Knife that they used was not clean. There was trace amounts of a Grount flower, now it could be on purpose, maybe a ritual, as that flower is often used for that, but either way it is not very common to find just anywhere.” He walks over to the map, “so given what types of places this specific flower would go, given the conditions it would need,” he furrowed his brow and took the fountain pen from Corton, “It might have come from, here, here or here.” Corton frowned at the old man for a moment, “how do you know so much about that flower? And give me back my pen.” Gregor chuckled, “here you silly boy, that flower is used to manage pain and for its ability to make you feel… good… any doctor worth their salt knows about it and where to find it.” Fern-Kin looked startled for a moment, “wait, are you saying he tried to stop them from feeling pain before cutting out their eyes?” Gregor looked thoughtful, “well maybe even more than that, they could have been trying to take the eyes out whole, and if you use enough of the flower it would make you quite out of it and you could be easily held down or controlled.” We all looked at each other for a long moment and then looked back at the map, i think we all saw it at the same moment, with all the dots placed on the map there was a single town that was within a reasonable distance from all of them, practically in the center. “Well, it looks like we are going to check out the town of Mosbeek and see if we can find out who our killer is.

 

Chapter 6

 

Ellie sat on the bed holding herself trying to calm herself down for a good hour before she finally lay down and fell asleep for a few hours. She woke up covered in sweat and went outside to find a river to get some water to cool off. As she walked out of the inn that the duke had set aside for their team to stay at while they were here, she noticed how quiet the streets were, there was no one out anywhere. The sun was almost setting as she reached a small stream a few blocks away from the inn and took a drink of water alongside a random stray dog. She then washed her face and stood up and walked back towards the inn. She noticed the signs now, stating that there was a curfew and that a dangerous criminal was stalking this area. She realized she should check in with the team and see what was happening with them and the killer. She went back to the room and activated the orb that Bethanie had given them to keep in touch with each other. The orb turned on and she saw Gregors face. “Hi,” she said quietly, “what have I missed?” Gregor looked surprised for a moment, looked around and realized the sound was coming from the orb on the table. He looked into it, “hey, little one, how are you doing? We have missed you this evening. The gang is getting together at the laughing pig for drinks and food if you want to join?” Ellie gave a half smile, “it might be nice, but what about the curfew?” Gregor frowned, “curfew? I did not know there was one. Hold on i will ask the others.” Ellie found her view shift as Gregor picked up the orb and started walking down the corridor of the castle. After a few moments she saw the rest of the team sitting around a table with a large map with dots and lines behind them. They were laughing at something when Gregor came in. “Ellie says that there is a curfew in place in the city. We may need to grab food here and bring it back to the inn before we can get home. Redordo looked at the orb, “i assume you saw some notices posted? Do they say what the reason is?” Ellie nodded, “yes, they say that there is a dangerous criminal and people should be home before dark.” Redordo nodded, “good at least they are not saying that there is a killer on the loose and causing a panic.” Ok, well we will grab some food and drink from the kitchen and head your way. Did you eat yet?” Ellie shook her head, “not yet.” “Ok, well we will pick you up some stuff as well. Let’s meet in that large study or sitting room off the main lobby in about an hour and we will meet and we will catch you up on what's happened.”

 

The next few hours were spent with the team eating, drinking and talking about the next steps of the case. Ellie felt better than she had this afternoon, finally feeling that she was safe with a family. The evening went by quickly and slowly everyone said their good nights. Ellie was one of the last few to leave sitting in front of the fire when Fran-Kin walked over to her and sat down next to her. “Hey, i, well, i wanted to …” he stared at the fire for a long moment. Ellie leaned over and hugged him. “It’s ok, we are fine. I am glad i have you guys, even if you tease a little bit. After what I saw..” she shuddered, “when i touched.. anyway i know you don’t mean anything by what you say.” Fran-Kin sighed looking relieved, “ok good, because, i like you, you are .. like family, like a little...like a sister to me and I don’t want you to be mad at me for the stuff i sometimes say… I have dealt with stuff like this in battle but not like this, and well it's good .. good to have people to be there and stuff.” Fran-Kin looked very uncomfortable as he finished off his sentence and stared intently at the fire not looking at Ellie. Ellie smiled as she let go of Fran-Kins arm. “I know what you mean. We should get some rest, it is going to be a long day tomorrow.” 

 

Chapter 7 

 

The town of Mosbeek was very quiet as the carriage rolled to a stop in front of a local inn. “Well..” Corton started, “I hope this one has food, I still cannot believe that the inn the duck set us up at had no food service or a kitchen. I thought that rule one of being an inn was having food.” We all exited the carriage after Corton and all went into the quiet rivers Inn which was very crowded and noisy despite the name. “How can I help you lot today? Table for five?” I nodded, “yes please, something in the back if possible.” We only waited a few moments before we got seated. We all order some drinks and once they came i got started, “ok team, here is the plan, we need to cover as much territory as possible, first we need to talk to the local guards and see if they have seen anything, second we need to patrol some of the local areas looking for anything out of the ordinary, third, as per Gregor, if our criminal is keeping the… items, they would need some speciality equipment, medical supplies and the like, so we will need to talk to some of the local merchants. And one last thing, its a bit far-fetched but we also need to talk with some of the pervariers of magical items as our criminal might be using the items for some dark magic purposes. Try not to draw too much attention to yourself as we do not want our target to become aware we are here, in case we scare them off.” The waitress came back and we all ordered our food. We drank for a few moments in silence. Fran-Kin broke the silence, “so boss, who is doing what?” I nodded, “yes, we need to divide and conquer the parts of the investigation. Ellie, to find and talk to the local purveyors of magic, Fran-Kin you are on patrol, check in every hour, Corton, you talk to the local guards and Gregor you seek out the medical shops and find out what our criminal has been buying. Meanwhile, I am going to find some accommodations and set up a headquarters and reach out to Bethanie. We need to get her to the castle so we can keep an eye on things there.” The waitress came back a few moments later and served up a practical feast for all of us. We sat for a long while and ate in silence, I at least was pondering what the next few days would hold for us and if we would be able to find this killer before he struck again.

 

Chapter 8

 

As i left the inn i frowned for a moment, magic, i knew very little of it. It was always something that my family had in the back of their minds. And then when I got cast out I had left the notion of magic, real magic, not the ability I had thrust upon me, behind in my past. Walking down the road I had an idea of where the persons who dealt in magic would probably congregate but I was not sure I wanted to really go there alone. 

 

I walked into the first shop called the darkened corner. I felt a shiver as I walked inside. The owner was an old and creepy looking man, “did you need help little one?” His voice sounded like crumpled leaves being walked on in fall and I almost missed what he said at first. “Yes, i… um.. am looking into a situation… a friend of mine died, and they had their… eyes… well …. removed…. It was so awful, that I had to find out why. I….” I found a sad place in my mind and forced out some tears. The old man looked so concerned, “oh, you poor dear, come, come, i have a nice little spot where we can sit and talk… don’t you worry, i will help you figure out what might have happened to your friend.” I nodded, and he led me to a little spot in the back of the store, there was a little table with a tea tray set up and a few little chairs. “My name is Falling Leaf, what is yours?” He gestured to a chair, I sat down in the chair and he poured a cup of tea for me and himself. “I am Ellie and I was hoping to get information from you.”  He nodded, “of course anything you need, it has been a while since anyone has come into my store.” He was shorter than I first thought and he did look like he may have some elven blood, from his slightly pointed ears and slightly bluish skin. “I am sorry, but are you part elf?” He chuckled and sipped his tea. “The last member of my family to be any part elf was my great grandma. So I am sure I have a little of that left in me.” I nodded. “The stories of what happened to them are always so sad.” He nodded, “yes, I grew up with them much more so than most, I hated humans for so long in my younger days. But I learned you cannot blame those who live today for their ancestors' wrong doings. Now, your friend, there are only a few spells that would need human eyes. One would be a seers spell and the other would be either to view the past or the future.” He paused, stirring his tea for a moment, “there is one other very dark spell that would use those ingredients, but mind you it would need a lot of eyes, and that would be a time viewer spell which is far more powerful that just the seer spell. Now if, and this is a huge if, the person using the magic had access to a lot of blood magic, a lot of eyes and a sanctified archway, they could create a portal to either the future or the past based on the combined age of the eyes and the blood used. Now the really big catch is that the blood used would have to come from their family line. So i do not think that is the most likely spell. Most use this type of spell to just view the future and use it to their advantage.” I sat for a long time in silence after that just letting the information sink in. None of those options were in any way good. 

 

“So would you like to see some of my wares? Or were you just here for information?” I looked at him for a moment, “I had one more question, to be fair, and then I would be happy to look at your wares.” He smiled “of course, go ahead and I will see if I can answer it.” I took a long drink of the tea, and took out a piece of paper from my coat. “This,” I started pointing to the picture, “was found at the scene of my … family member's death.”, I was kicking myself in my mind, realizing I said friend in the beginning. Falling Leaf looked at me for a moment, “yes, I am aware of that, it is a seer stone. If the person who took your family members eyes…” he paused… “Well that object would imply that the more likely spell is the viewer spell as that is needed to solidify the time frame there would be going to. The symbol on the stone means they were trying to go into the past. Now if they don’t have that stone anymore, and don’t have a second one then they would have no control over where they would go, they could easily go forward in time as back in time.” I finished my tea and stood up. “Well thank you, that was most helpful. Could I see some of your wares before I head out.” He nodded and we spent the next hour looking at his magical items before I left with some small healing stones in a small bag and walked back to the Inn to wait for the rest of the team.

 

Chapter 9 

 

I grumbled to myself, killers, i knew many before these young srugs and if i did not keep them safe, i would know many after they were gone. The Dragon Wars were not really just humans versus dragons, it was a chance for the humans to get rid of any creature that was not like them. I remember the war, the streets in front of me filled in my mind's eye with the bodies of my kin strewn as far as I could see. I shook my head and continued my patrol. 

 

I stopped at a little stall about an hour in and bought a drink and sat on a barrel that had been set up for people to rest on as they had a drink. I thought it was rather clever, the placement of this barrel, or maybe it was the strength of the drink that made me think that,  as I watched the street and saw the comings and goings of this sleepy little village. It seemed so strange to me that a killer could have grown up in a place so peaceful and still become such a terror. That’s when I noticed the house on the hill at the edge of the town. It looked so different from the rest of the short little houses made of wood, while it was made of brick and looked like a small broken down castle. “Hey, who owns that place?” I asked the stall owner as he pointed to the strange house. He shrugged, “no one anymore, that place has been empty since the Matron family left. I think they all disappeared about ten years ago.” I grunted, “thanks, where can I find the town hall? Or a place you keep records?” The stall keeper pointed to a small wooden building. ‘Record keepers is there.” I nodded. “Thanks again for the drink.” 

 

The lady behind the counter was more helpful than expected, giving me a lot of information about the family who lived there, at least about how long people had lived there and the family name. But no information about when they actually left. You know, there is someone who may have known the family, and be able to tell you where they went.” “Ok…” she frowned for a moment, the frumpy arms of her green dress crossing. “Don’t be impatient, i am thinking..” She stood there for a long moment, so long I could feel my beard growing. She finally spoke again, “ok so there is a tavern about three blocks up, the family that owns it has been here for a really long time and i think they knew the family that lived there. They can tell you where they went. “Thanks, i will go there then.” I grumphed and turned to leave. I could feel her eyes boring into my back as I left. 

 

The bar was dark and quiet as I walked in and sat down; it felt like no one had been in it for decades. As I looked around I did notice that there were a few other people sitting in the dusty wooden tables, most of them tucked into the shadowy corners of the bar. The bartender walked over to me, a tall woman with green skin that can only come from the ogres of the Great Plains, she had a strong profile and I would not want to meet her on a battlefield. “What can i get you sir?” Her gruff voice matched my own as I ordered a grog and sat quietly until she came back and placed a tall mug in front of me. “I am new here, and I have a question that I was told you would know the answers too.” She raised an eyebrow at me, “sure, I can think of nothing better I could be doing then answering your questions today…'' I grunted at the sarcasm as I went ahead and asked her about the house and the family had lived in.she frowned at me, rolled her eyes, “Look I don’t know what you have been told but no one left that house, they all died there. The stories differ, but my father told me the story that they all went crazy and they killed each other. There is a version where only the six year old survived and he still lives up there in the house. I cannot say for sure, but late at night when i head home I think that i can seem movement up there.” I nodded, put coin down for the drink, “thank you for that, I hope you get more customers.” She grunted at me. I needed to continue my patrol, but i think that house is the place we need to stake out and see if there is a crazed killer still hanging out there. 

 

Chapter 10 

 

I was so glad that I could finally prove myself by helping this team catch a killer. At least the chance to try. I had spent so many years in the shadows of my mentor, father and others that i never had a chance to really decide what i wanted nor to really show what i could do. My mission may be to only speak to the guards but it could give us the missing clue we need. The city guard was not hard to find and neither was the captain of the guard. He was an old white haired dwarf. “What do you need youngster?” He asked after I shook his hand and we made introductions. “Well sir, capitan Ger-fore, Ihave a very important mission, I am with the newly formed Justice force, I handed the captain the letter giving me authority from the lord. He nodded, “rumor of your ability to find criminals have traveled even to this sleepy burg. How can i assist?” I took a deep breath, “well we believe that a murder lives or has passed through this city. All we know for sure is that they have cut out the eyes of their victims. Has your guard found any such crimes in recent history?” Ger-Fore sat quietly for a moment, yes, in fact we have, many years ago. There was a very gruesome crime that took place that was never solved and the one survivor was put in an institution. Come with me to the records room and I will show you what we have on the case. There was a very wealthy family,” he started as we walked inside the large building passing weapons on racks, and idle guards sitting around playing cards. “The Wirtwright family lived in one of the larger houses in the town. They were well loved for years until a rival lord from another city challenged the father, Rubart to a dual and won. After that the family was never the same, including their son Fransworth. Then one night many moons after the duel there was a fire at the house and all the family was killed except for the son. Now the strange factor about the case is that the family was laid out in their beds in a fashion that would not be consistent with people who had woken with their house on fire. The local doctor at the time uncovered that their throats had all been slashed in their sleep and then the house set on fire to cover it up. Now the other strange part was the son, he was found in the only part of the house that had not been engulfed in flames. He was 12 at the time, so he was not a suspect. He was taken to an orphanage until he was of age. As far as i know he went back to the house when he turned 18 and rebuilt the house and lived there for a while but that was about 10 year ago and he has not been seen since, he could still be in the house for all we know. Now the last strange thing about this case is that the mother, daughter and one of the sons were found killed in the bed, however there were 3 sons. Meaning that one son is missing still.” I sat for a moment in silence, “i.. cannot even imagine having lived through something like that. I am assuming you never uncovered who set the house on fire? I mean did your team ever talk to the son?” Ger-Fore frowned, “sadly we tried to talk to the son multiple times, but he stopped talking after he moved into the orphanage. We never uncovered enough evidence to see if the fire was actually set or an accident, we only assumed it was because of the slit throats. It remains one of the great shames of this town. Partially why a lot of people won't talk about it and no real stories about the family or the house exist, except for the made up ones of course. No one wants to tear the house down either for fear we would forget the family and what happened to them.” 

 

I walked around the city for a while, and went to look at the house for a moment, a wave of sadness overcame me as I thought about what happened to the family. I am grateful for the team I have as they are really the only family that seems to be proud of me, or at least I am hopeful they are. After my father's distaste of me and my lack of heroics as a guard, and my mother's death i am glad to have my new family even if not exactly normal. I can think back to my childhood and remember the joy I would have in the fields behind our small stone house, it was the time after the war and my father and mother were both home to stay. My mother had been a nurse in the nearby fort and I would spend most of my days with my aunt waiting for my mom to come home. My father would send letters home letting us know he loved us and how he hoped to see us soon. My mom and I would write letters to him weekly hoping that they would brighten his day. Things were so much better once he came back home. My mother was still a nurse, but she was home a lot sooner than before and my father was captain of the guard so they were both home in the evening for dinner. I shake my head clearing it and bring it back to now. As wonderful as those memories are, the ones that come next are far sadder and I must stay focused on the present. 

 

Chapter 11 

 

I knew that this was going to be a dark path as I left the noise of the inn. Anyone who uses the healing arts in such a twisted way was not going to spend time in a normal medical supply shop. I started towards the center of town and quickly found the apothecary. I walked into the dark and dusty shop filled with the smell of chemicals and filled with tools from the front door to the rafters. Nothing was in order and there were skeletons of different races placed all over the place just haphazardly like one had walked into a battlefield of the very long dead. From behind a pile of things in one of the corners a faint “welcome stranger, how can i help you?” I looked around trying to discern where among the many piles the voice had come from. A very short person, or so I thought started climbing out from over a large pile of books, I walked over towards it and soon realized that it was not a human at all but a very large frog, well frog like, it was dressed in clothing and walking upright. It brushed itself off and started at me. “Um… hello, I am Gregor, I am a man of medicine and I was looking for the proprietors of this shop to ask a few questions.” The frog? I guess, laughed? Hard to say to be sure, but either way it started talking in a quiet voice. “I am under an enchantment from the last person who visited my shop, not the first time unfortunately. This shop has a lot of oddities that are worth a lot of money to the right person. They call me john-fort. I am the proprietor of this shop, and if you could help me reach some ingredients I can get back to my normal form.” I nodded, not sure what else to do and over the next few hours I helped this frog get back to their normal form. As we worked I asked my questions. “So I am part of a team that is investigating a series of murders where the victims eyes were taken out whole.” John-fort pointed to a high shelf, “reach that vial can you?” I reached up and handed it to him, “It is hard to take eyes out whole, I think the person would have had to use a Vbscript. They are a common surgical tool.” I nodded, “indeed, however the person who did this knew of Grout flower being used as a numbing agent. To use that flower the person would need a very large set up to distill the flower into any sort of workable medicine.” John-fort smiled, i think? “Hehe, yes, that is what i specialize in. I would have probably set them up with my team however I have been in my current form for over 2 months, thus the current state of my shop. My team left me out of fear of what would become of them, after the curse that was placed on me and in my current form cleaning is out of the questions. As for a cure for my curse, well after the research to figure out first what was done to me, how to fix it and then trying to find the ingredients, well it's been a long few months at least since that customer cursed me.” My crotchety side was starting to come out from behind my professional exterior, “yes i can see it has been hard, but can you tell me who that customer was?” The frog shrugged as he started mixing the ingredients in a series of tubes, flasks and vials. And watched as the ingredients changed from green to yellow to clear. “The only time I saw them is when they came storming in here after a customer had paid for everything and all the equipment had been delivered. They came in, saw what I was, yelled something at me and then they cursed me. It was very disconcerting. I moved to this town to get away from the scorn of you humans. What i can tell you is they really know their magic, because me being what i am it takes a lot to make a curse actually stick. I mean I think they were trying to kill me actually. Now if you would step back for a moment i will see if this works.” He took the small vial of liquid that was collecting all the fluids and ingredients from inside the tubes, beakers and other parts and held it in his hand for a moment staring at it. “You know, i should probably do this outside, come, let us go outside. If you don’t mind carrying me? It would be much faster.” I signed internally to myself, I know for a fact I am way too old for this kind of adventure any more, but since I had already started helping I should finish it up. I picked him up gently and carried him outside. I placed him down in a large field out behind the shop and he stood there for a moment staring at the vial, “well here goes…” he took a large swig of the liquid, “ewww that is nasty stuff.” I rolled my eyes, as the clouds began to darken and the little frog started to grow. He became bigger and bigger and started to change shape. But not color, he stayed green until finally a large majestic dragon stood before me and roared loudly. I am sure any flies would have made homes in my mouth if there were any, for the sling that of time my jaw was slack staring at this dragon. He stood in his full glory for another moment, and then slowly changed back to human sized although mostly naked. He smiled, “pardon me, i need to go get dressed. If you would not mind staying in the front of the shop while I find some clothing.” 

 

After a few moments john-fort came out from the back of the store dressed again and smiling. “Thank you so much for all your help, now i can only tell you a few things about what happened with my last customer, but i can assure you that they bought all the items needed to extract the medicine from the flower and also the items needed for a blood magic portal. Now given that, the only thing i know for sure as to where all the items ended up was it was near the house on the hill. Now I think that is why he cursed me, thinking I was just some human that would spill his secrets, he was hoping to kill me so as to not share the location and may have killed my crew if they did not get away in time. I should really try to find them at some point.” I have been reduced to just nodding and taking notes as he spoke. This whole thing just reminds me again of why I got out of the adventure game and tried to stick to medicine. Good job me. I left with all the info I needed and a hearty thank you from John-Fort promising me that if I ever needed anything to come to him first. 

 

My mind wandered back to the old days as I walked back towards the inn to wait for the rest of the team. I can still remember a young doctor out of medical school before the war started and I could remember the propaganda regarding waredragons and how they were going to destroy the realm and pervert our youth. At the time waredragons and humans lived together in relative peace, the only ones it seemed to bother was the lords of the lands. I remember the posters talking about unfair trade and the lands that belonged to humans that the waredragons were hoarding. It was all a lot of political nonsense. But then when the stories about waredragons eating people started to surface and how the red dragon lords had put out a call for war against the human “meat” that things went off the rails pretty quick. I can still remember the caravans of non-humans leaving the cities with all their possessions being watched over by the city guard as they left our town. There were people on both sides of the war fighting for either the rights of the red dragon war or protesting the war all together and those screaming for blood of the dragon and all their magical sympathizers. I decided to go to the frontlines as a neutral and joined the Order of the Healing Hand. The order went to where the fighting was and would use magic and medicine to heal the wounded and injured on both sides. We were loved for the healing we did and hated because we helped the enemy of both sides. After the war many of us saw the devastation that was caused and no matter what side you were on the human side, who always claimed they won, or the red dragon side, no one won when it came to the 10 years following the war of rebuilding and trying to pick up the pieces of so many broken lives. I felt a tear in my eye remembering that time, as I saw Fran-Kin, Redordo, Ellie and Corton sitting in the overstuffed chairs in front of a fire as I walked into the lobby of the inn. 

 

Chapter 12

 

We were all sitting at the fireplace talking through what everyone had uncovered when Gregor walked in and sat down with us. I nodded at him, “we were just finishing up what we had gotten from everyone and it seems the last bit of information we need is from you, can you confirm that our current suspected murderer, or, suspect, Fransworth Wirtwright had a possible reason to seek these eyes out and may have the tools to preform a blood magic ritual to reverse time and prevent the murder of his family?” Gregor sat down in the chair that Fran-Kin offered. “Indeed, I believe that the person who visited the shop last did live at the large house on the hill and has the tools to do blood magic. If that person is the Fransworth person whom you speak of then it is likely him. However, the person who bought these items also attempted to kill the shopkeeper to keep them quiet and is most dangerous. We should proceed with caution.” I nodded, ”indeed correct, our suspect is armed with magic and very unstable. The only thing we have on our side at the moment is that they do not know we are coming. I will go ahead of the team and to a preliminary sweep of the area. Everyone has their communication devices on and be prepared to join me quickly. Let me go over the plan of attack with everyone.” I pulled out some paper and some charcoal chalk and started drawing a crude map of the house to review. 

 

Chapter 13

 

As the team finally joined me at the dilapidated old house in the farthest corner of the city. The house was three stories and might have been red brick and a dark wood many years before. Now it was crumbling in such a way as to look like it was going to fall over. The two towers that jutted out seemed like two jagged teeth pointing towards the sky. The place was creepy even in the bright daylight. “Ok team,” I started, “we need to enter quickly and silently get our man and get out.” Fran-Kin nodded and offered a hand to Ellie which she jumped in and he placed her on his shoulder. Gregor looked at Corton, who nodded in response. “Ok, good, Fran-Kin and Ellie, you take the left side and Gregor and Corton take the right, I will go around to the rear. Keep in touch with the scrying orbs but be quiet.” Bethanie, you stay in front here with the carriage just in case he tries to escape out the front.” We all nodded and started towards the house with our crossbows in hand when all of a sudden there was a large boom and a plume of blue smoke shot out of both towers 20 feet in the sky. We all looked at each other, crossbows out and we all ran towards the front door all plans of stealth now abandoned. 

 

The front door was slightly open as we burst through it and started searching through the house as quickly as possible while still trying to be quiet. The main hall was covered with green moss and a smell of rotten vegetation and dead bodies. Each room was more wet and dank than the one before and all were covered with some sort of vegetation and now and then puddles of some sort of brown liquid that I did not want to discover what it was. Fran-Kin startled all of us when he whispered in to the scrying orb, “second floor, second room from the tower, quickly!” We all went running up the stairs and into the room and all three of us stood outside the door crossbows leveled at a figure in a cloak staring down Fran-Kin and Ellie inside of the room with a black archway behind him. The figure had a staff that was glowing with red flames and had the point of the staff leveled at them. I knew that if we moved in that Fran-Kin and Ellie would get the full blast of that red flame. I put my hands above my head and dropped my weapon, “Ok, we are not going to do anything rash here, i am going to come into the room and we can talk.” The figure turned its head to look at me slightly, “you have no idea what rash means! I have the power of a thousand suns coursing through my veins, through my very soul! The blood of my family encompasses everything I am, and coats me in a defense that you can never penetrate! I will redo the past, control the fates, and destroy all those in my way! There is nothing you can do to stop the darkness from controlling all that i am or ever will be!!!” As he said the words a green portal opened behind him and he leaped backwards into the portal and was gone. We all looked at each other for a moment and one by one we jumped through it as well. 

 

Chapter 14

 

She stood up and shook her head, the glass around her feet all that remained of her prison. He pulled back his hood and helped her up, “well they will never find us here in the past.” She frowned at him, fear filling her eyes, “what… What have you done? I wanted revenge as much as you but this, how will we get back home? And my father? He will be besides himself with worry by now.” He brushed a piece of glass off her shoulder, “It will be fine, we will find a way home once we save my family and we have the evidence against those who destroyed my life.” She looked at him, what have you done, How many did you kill to get what you want? How many more will die? This is too much bloodshed me to be apart of anymore, I love you but this needs to stop!” He frowned, “we have gone too far to go back now. Come my dear, the world of the past awaits.”

 

The walk out of the field together and down the dirt road towards a large farm. The see the farmer in the back tending to some odd looking cows, “good afternoon simple farmer, may i ask what is the date, we have been lost in the woods for a few days and have lost track of time.” The farmer gave them an odd look, “well, there, today is Thursday the 16th. How do you folks get all the way out here?” Fransworth smiled, “ah that is a long story. But first would you mind providing us a little something to eat and drink?” The farmer nodded, “sure come on inside and we will get you some new clothing and get you fed. You don’t want to be out here looking like that, folks don’t take kindly to people dressed differently.”

 

Chapter 15

 

The world went green for what seemed like eternity and then wasn’t green. We were all lying in a big field with flowers as far as the eye could see. I looked around to see who had made it through, Fran-Kin was sitting there looking confused with Ellie still clinging to his shoulder, Corton was unconscious behind him and Gregor was trying to stand up about 50 paces away from us. We stared at each other for a long moment, then suddenly we all turned around and something came tearing down the dirt road behind us all metal bright red and going at impossible speeds making a roaring noise that I have never heard before. Fran-Kin said what we were all thinking, “where the heck are we?”

 

To be continued...

 


Submitted: January 09, 2021

© Copyright 2021 Robert Dragon Pollack. All rights reserved.

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