The sudden knocking on Olian's door made him jump. He'd been so absorbed in reading Old Moby's texts and journals that he'd completely tuned out the rest of the world. Including, once again, what time of day it was. Seeing the light seeping into the room from behind the curtains he guessed it was about time for him to be open for business.
"Bugger," the mage cursed. Having to deal with customers meant less time to devote to research. And right now research was all he cared to do. There were some truly interesting things in Moby's texts, things which on the face of it were completely insane. But once you got down into it and started to see the connections, it wasn't so crazy after all. In fact, it was a little frightening.
A fist once again thudded against the door, and though he didn't jump this time he did twitch a bit. Whoever was out there really wanted to talk, it seemed. Olian thought briefly about telling them to sod off and come back later. But what if it was the Watch? They'd wouldn't just take no for an answer. So with a sigh he left Moby's texts behind and answered the door. "What?" He demanded, squinting as a shaft of sunlight hit him square in the eyes. For a moment, all he could see was the outline of a figure standing before him. Slowly it resolved itself into a man, but there was something wrong... the eyes were huge, bulbous things, black and reflective. The torso was stiff, unmoving, covered in a chitinous carapace. Olian gasped and took a step back, throat closing on a scream as a clawed hand reached towards him, a malevolent hissing chatter filling his ears.
"Olian?" A voice cut through the cacophony of terror, "Hey, are you alright? Olian? Gods, man, don't tell me you're having a heart attack." A hand grabbed his arm. Soft fleshy fingers dug in, not razor sharp claws.
"What?" Olian rasped, suddenly confused. He blinked several times, and realized it was no monster that stood before him. It was a Watchman, wearing the light armor they were known for. But the eyes... he stared at them for a second. No, not eyes. Goggles. Darkened glass goggles. With his free hand the Watchman pulled them down around his neck, revealing green eyes filled with concern.
"Olian?" The Watchman repeated. "Do I need to call a healer?" His hand went towards a pouch on his belt. Olian reached out and grabbed his wrist before it could touch the crystal stored there.
"No!" He snapped. Clearing his throat, he composed himself. "No. Thank you, I'm... I'm fine. Just... exhausted, that's all. Please, have a seat." He freed himself from the Watchman's grip and turned away, heart pounding in his chest. "Can I get you some tea?" he asked weakly.
"I don't want to trouble you..."
"No trouble," Olian responded. "I think I need some myself. I'll just make extra for you." He wandered into the side room where he had a small kitchen and began preparing the tea. "I'm sorry," he called out into the main room, "I don't think I remember your name."
"Hatchet," the Watchman called back. "I was at the warehouse."
"Ah, of course," Olian said. He remembered the man's face, now, though he didn't recall speaking to him. He muttered a small incantation, made the appropriate gesture, and a small fire sputtered to life underneath the tea kettle. It burned with a blue hue and was hotter than a non magical flame. The water boiled quickly thanks to that, and Hatchet only had to wait a couple of minutes for Olian to bring out tray with two cups of tea on it. Hatchet had perched himself on a stool that had been a little too rickety to stack books on, and while he sipped at his tea Olian shoved an avalanche of manuscripts from an ancient, though well padded, armchair. Settling into it with his own cup, the mage felt himself finally settling down.
"I apologize for my reaction," the mage began. "I've been working through the night, neglecting to sleep. For a moment... well, let's just say that going several days without sleep has it's consequences. Now, what can I do for you?"
"Something odd happened last night," Hatchet started. "There's a place called The Barrel, have you heard of it?"
Olian shook his head. "No, I can't as as I have. What manner of place is it?"
"It's an inn. Drinks and food on the first floor, rooms on the second. Pretty standard." Hatchet took a moment to sip at his tea. "The place had all the windows on the first floor broken out last night. Wick and Hartswell checked it out, but nobody saw anything. Not that they're gonna tell us about, anyway. There was a girl there who probably saw the whole thing, but she's gone mute about it." He shook his head. "Not much they can do without witnesses. Thing is I was talking with Wick, and she says all the windows were busted out from the inside. And the guy who reported it said there was only one really loud crash. Like they all got broken at once."
"You think it was magic," Olian made the logical conclusion over top of his teacup.
"That's right," Hatchet nodded. "And with that's going on I'm worried it's more than that. That the girl won't talk because she's afraid of what she saw, afraid of whatever did this."
"You think there's a connection to the murders?" Olian sat straighter in his chair, and Hatchet felt the mage focus his full attention.
"I know there's demons running around out there," Hatchet said. "I saw one in the warehouse. If there was one inside The Barrel last night I want to know why. I'd like you to come have a look with me. Maybe there's something you can see that I can't, something magic related."
Olian put a hand on his mouth and ran it down his chin, eyes narrowing. "No other murders?" he asked.
"Not that we've found."
Olian's eyes wandered to the table where most of Moby's manuscripts were stacked. "Then there will be soon," he said. Nodding mostly to himself he answered Hatchet. "Very well. Give me a moment to gather my things."
The tavern portion of The Barrel was temporarily closed for business. At least, that's what the sign said. But it wasn't stopping the owner from selling his goods to patrons who had decided to just sit around outside the front of the property, which had been cleared of any broken glass. The sides and back were still being swept, and boards nailed in place until replacement panes could be brought in. This would not be a small expense, Hatchet heard the owner grousing as he approached. Olian followed behind, as did Anara.
"Profits are barely enough to keep this place open and give me a decent living," the owner continued to the sympathetic ears of his regulars. "You know what that means, don't ya?" The crows chorused back that no, they did not. "It means you boys better drink extra if you want the old Barrel to stay in business! Now who wants another?" A serving girl hurriedly went to work bringing the accommodating patrons their drinks. Hatchet noted that she was probably the one who'd seen what happened but wasn't talking.
"You Cotswald?" Hatchet asked the owner. The man took a moment to look over Olian, then nodded.
"Yeah, that's me," he said. "Back again, eh? I told the other two everything I know. Which is nothing more than somebody decided to bust out all my expensive glass windows last night."
"Don't worry," Hatchet told him, "I'm not interested in questions. I just want to have a look around the inside. Of course, if you or anyone else," he gave a pointed glance at the girl, "think of anything you forgot to mention to the other Watchmen, you let me know."
Cotswald followed Hatchet's glance to the girl. "Feh," he frowned. "Yeah, sure. Door's open, let yourselves in."
"Alright Olian," Hatchet invited the mage forward as they entered, "Do your thing." Olian moved towards the center of the room, eyes slowly sweeping every visible surface. Hatchet removed his goggles and saw Anara had already done the same.
"Strange," she commented. "It's not like demons to resort to vandalism, is it?"
"It's not like demons to leave without killing somebody, either," Hatchet replied. "That girl," he tossed his head in the direction of the door, "Wick said she was the only one in the room here when whatever happened happened. If it was a demon, why didn't it kill her?"
"Why bother?" Anara mused. "She's no threat. As long as she didn't get in the way why should it care?"
"And pass up the opportunity for some carnage on the side?" Hatchet scoffed.
"Not all demons are the mindless, animalistic things you think they are," Olian added distractedly. "Many have intelligence. They are violent, yes, and they kill. But they do so with a purpose. And when it suits their purpose, they will not kill. This is what makes them so very, incredibly dangerous."
"So it suited it's purpose not to kill her," Hatchet acknowledged. "Why?"
Anara shrugged, and the two fell into a contemplative silence as Olian muttered under his breath. He dug around in his pouch and pulled out a rough white crystal. He proceeded to pace across the room with it, sometimes turning this way or that, all the while his lips moving silently. Now and again he would stop, put the crystal away, and consult a book before returning to his patrol of the room. Finally he put the crystal away and nodded, almost to himself. "There was magic here," he told them. "There, specifically," he pointed to a spot near one of the tables.
"What kind?" Anara asked.
Olian frowned. "It doesn't make any sense," he said. "It was some sort of ward, or banishment. Similar to some of the magic Templars used to fight demons. But why it would be here..."
"What kind of demon uses anti-demon spells?" Hatchet wondered.
"The kind that wants to get rid of the competition," Anara said.
"Demons fight each other?" Hatched asked, raising his eyebrows at Olian. The mage nodded.
"It's not unheard of. If even the Gods could disagree, why wouldn't demons fight one another? There has been speculation that there are demon lords, powerful entities who control factions of demons, and war with one another." He shrugged. "All I can tell you is what manner of magic was used here."
"So we've got a couple of demons having at each other," Hatchet mused. "Why here?"
"Coincidence," Anara suggested. "I don't see anything here that would catch a demon's attention. Olian?"
The mage seemed lost in thought for a moment. "No. Nothing."
Hatchet sighed. "Doesn't matter, anyway. Not if we can't find it again. Olian, is there any way to track this thing down?"
"I can do some research," he replied, but the look on his face told Hatchet it would be a long shot. "What I can do," Olian added, "Is watch for any other spells like this. It'll take a lot of effort, but if it works I can let you know the moment a spell like this is cast again."
"What about where it's cast?" Anara wanted to know. "Knowing they're casting that spell does us no good if we don't know where it's happening."
"That will be more difficult," Olian said, rubbing at his forehead. "But I can try."
"Good," Hatchet said. "Maybe next time we can catch them in the act."
"And then what?" A voice asked from the doorway. The Watchmen and Olian turned to look, and found the serving girl standing there.
"And then we kill it," Hatchet told her. He shot a glance at Olian as he spoke, looking for reassurance. Olian nodded. It was possible, then.
The girl chewed on her bottom lip, eyes troubled. "Why?" Anara asked. "What do you know?"
The girl took a step forward, rubbing one hand nervously. "He's not what you think," she said. "He's not a demon."