Trouble BrewingMature

 


"We can't just let her go," Olian insisted, keeping his voice low so Daine wouldn't overhear. "She might be working with him!"

Hatchet looked past Olian to Daine, who was still sitting at the table with Anara. He let an exasperated sigh pass his lips. "If she was working with him," he asked, also keeping his voice low, "why would she have told us everything she did?"

"Maybe she's lying," Olian said. "She didn't tell the other Watchmen anything, remember?"

"Or maybe she really thinks, for whatever reason, that he's a good guy," Hatchet suggested.

"I have a bad feeling about her, Hatchet. Something's not right."

"You can't lock her up because you've got a feeling," Hatchet reminded him.

"I am a mage, you know," Olian tried. It didn't always work, but it was always worth a shot.

"Great," Hatchet replied, "How about you use some of that magical knowledge to figure out a way to catch this guy Noman? Look," he added when it looked like Olian was about to argue some more, "We'll keep an eye on the girl, right? But me, I'd rather focus our attention on catching the guy we know is summoning demons. How about you?"

Olian looked at the ceiling and took a deep breath. He let it out and looked back at Hatchet, then nodded. "You're right. We need to stop him before he summons anything else, or finishes whatever it he's doing with those runes."

"Or before he murders anyone else?" Hatchet prompted.

"Oh. Yes, and that," Olian agreed, though he seemed distracted. Hatchet looked exasperated but held his tongue. Mages had a reputation for being... eccentric, after all. He motioned for Anara to join them. 

"Anything else?" He asked as she approached.

"She lives down on the river with her sister," Anara reported. "Sister also works here, but wasn't around when Noman blew out the windows. According to Daine, nobody else talks to the guy. Just her, and not all that often. Says he keeps to himself and she's never seen him here with anybody. That's all we got. Are we taking her back to the tower?"

"You think we should?" Hatchet asked.

"No," She said. "No reason. I don't think she knows anything more than she's already said. The only danger might be if Noman comes back for her. I'd recommend sticking a Watchman or two on the place to keep an eye out for him."

 "We'll bring it up with the Captain when we report," Hatched agreed. 

"I'd better be going," Olian told them. "I'll be in touch through the crystal when I have something for you."

"The faster the better," Hatchet tossed after the mage as he slipped through the door and out into the street. 

"Daine," Anara told the girl, "I want you to understand how dangerous Noman is. Whatever he may have done for you, or whatever happened here, he has killed people in cold blood; and he's using their blood to try some sort of magic. Next time it might be yours. If you see him again, you run and find a Watchman, alright? Don't try to talk to him, don't approach him at all. Will you do that?" 

Daine nodded. "Yes," she said. "But please, if you catch him... just give him a chance?"

"That'll depend on what he does, but I wouldn't get your hopes up" Hatchet said, remembering Byrd. "He's already responsible for injuring a Watchman. And I can't imagine someone capable of ordering demons around is going to go quietly."

********

Olian wandered through the streets, head down, brow furrowed in thought. He payed only enough attention to those around him to keep from running in to people. Something was wrong, he could feel it. Wrong about the girl, wrong about the situation, wrong about how Hatchet and Anara wanted to handle it.  He would have to call Lucan on the crystal when he got back to his shop. Maybe another mage could help puzzle things out. 

It briefly occurred to Olian that he'd missed the meeting of the Mage's Guild earlier in the morning. He felt very briefly guilty about it, but decided it had been better this way. They never got anything done at those meetings and, while it was good to see everybody every now and again, if he had gone he would have missed learning everything about what had happened at the Barrel. Which brought his thoughts back to everything that was bothering him. 

It just didn't seem likely. If they were dealing with a Summoner - and gods above, that was the last thing they needed - why would he put on such a show for Daine? And it had to have been a show, didn't it? If a Summoner lost the ability to control his minions he was as good as dead or possessed himself. The few accounts Olian had read made it very clear what happened when you had a possessed Summoner on the loose. And since Marsten wasn't in flames and overrun by various incarnations of evil, it was fairly safe to assume that Noman wasn't possessed. So what was he up to?

He reached his workshop to find Lucan waiting out front. "There you are!" Lucan said, clearly annoyed at having to wait. 

"Yes," Olian agreed, "Here I am." He opened the door and invited his fellow mage inside. 

"You missed an interesting meeting this morning," Lucan said as he stepped in. "Samaras decided it was time to do something about this strange new world we find ourselves in. Where were you, anyway? Still working on that thing for the Watch?"

"Something happened at a tavern called the Barrel last night," Olian replied. He closed the door after taking a careful look outside, bolted the locks, and activated the wards. When he'd closed the curtains on the windows he turned and faced Lucan, face set. "We have a problem," he said. "A big problem."

"Nothing a judicious use of magic can't solve, I'm sure," Lucan suggested, looking around the room for some place to sit. The smile that accompanied his words faded as Olian showed no signs of being amused. "Alright then, what is it?"

"There's..." he paused, casting suspicious glances at the shadows around the room. He took long steps over to his desk and activated the light emitting crystal he kept there. With a nod, he turned back to his fellow mage. "There's a Summoner on the loose, Lucan."

 

"A Summoner?" Lucan actually scoffed. "You can't be serious."

 

"I am deadly serious," Olian insisted. "I've seen the symbols he draws in his victims blood. They're an arcane magic, something we've not seen before. I'm still trying to decipher it, but it's clearly blood magic. And you know what that means. And then there's the girl, Daine. He put on a show at the Barrel last night with a swarm of... she called them shadows. Has to be demons. Only, I can't figure out why he did it. Why draw attention to himself like that? He has to know we're looking for him, trying to figure out what he's up to." Olian was pacing now, and almost talking to himself. Lucan watched him go first one way, then the other, weaving around stacks of books. 

 

"Maybe it was just a mistake," Lucan suggested. "Just because he can summon and bind demons doesn't make him overly intelligent." 

 

Olian sighed and rubbed at his face. "Maybe you're right." He moved some books from a chair to the floor and sank into it with a heavy sigh. He closed his eyes and saw the horrible visage of Hatchet from early in the morning, deformed and terrifying. A shudder passed down his spine. He opened his eyes and fidgeted in his chair for a moment. "Lucan..."

 

"Speak," Lucan prompted, clearing a chair of his own and moving it so he could face Olian. "Something's clearly bothering you," he added. 

 

"I've been having trouble sleeping," Olian admitted. He looked away from Lucan and rubbed at his eyes. "Getting too invested in the research, I think. Sometimes I forget to eat. Just start reading the books and lose track of time."

 

"You should see to that," Lucan said. "You're not getting any younger, you know. Have you thought about taking on an apprentice? All night research is more of a young man's game, and the traditional province of mages in training." 

 

"Maybe some day," Olian muttered. "Right now it would take more time and effort to find someone with magical talents, let alone convince them that our dying profession would be worth their while." He shook his head.

 

Lucan grunted, "You really should have been at the meeting. But that can't be all that's worrying you."

 

Olian sighed again. "No, that's not all Lucan. Have you... felt anything different, lately?"

 

"Different?" Lucan's head tilted ever so slightly to one side. "Different how?"

 

"Something's happening," Olian said. "I can't... I don't know what it is. I just have this constant feeling. At the back of my neck, in the pit of my stomach. Like somebody's watching, always looking over my shoulder. It's unnerving."

 

"I can imagine," Lucan said, shifting in his chair. "But no, I haven't felt anything out of place. I think I know the feeling, though. Sometimes persistent, low level spells make my skin want to crawl." He turned around and examined the runes etched into the doorframe. "Are you sure you've got those done correctly? I don't feel anything, but I'm not around them as often as you are. I could have a look..."

 

Olian let his gaze fall on the protective runes. "Thank you, Lucan, but it would take you longer than you'd probably like to figure them out. They're a combination of several protective wards. Took me ages to figure out how to integrate them, but in the end it's easier to do one than several..." At first he just let his eyes wander over the runes, tracing their shapes and following their path around the door, making sure everything was in order. Slowly, from the back of his mind, a thought clawed it's way out of his subconscious and demanded full consideration. "The runes..." he whispered.

 

"Find a problem?" Lucan inquired.

 

"Eh? No, no, not my runes. His runes! The Summoner, Lucan. He knows we're looking for him, trying to figure out what he's doing. But he wouldn't know how far we'd gotten unless he knew who was deciphering his work. That's why he caused a scene last night. To draw us in, so he could see who was after him. So he could find out who I was."

 

"Olian," Lucan said, clearly worried. "How long did you say it was since you slept last?"

 

"What?" Olian asked, looking puzzled at the sudden change of topic. "I don't remember. It doesn't matter. I've got to warn Hatchet... if he's not after them yet, he will be soon." 

 

"No," Lucan said firmly, standing immediately as Olian did the same. "You sit." He ordered. "Let me talk to the Watch. You need to sleep."

 

"I thank you for the concern," Olian said, though his tone made that assertion questionable, "But I can take care of myself."

 

"Olian, the last thing we need is a mage having a nervous breakdown because he hasn't slept in Gods know how long." Lucan stepped forward and put a hand on Olian's shoulder. "Besides, if there is a Summoner in Marsten we'll need everybody at their best, eh?"

 

"Well... yes," Olian grudgingly admitted. 

 

"Then sleep," Lucan pressed again. "I'll talk to the Watch. Hmm?" He gave a reassuring smile. Olian nodded and sank back down into his chair. "I'll be back to check on you," Lucan assured him. "Which Watchmen did you say needed warning?"

 

"Hatchet and Anara," Olian said. 

 

With another nod and a reassuring smile, Lucan left the shop. Once outside his smile faded. "Good gods," he muttered. The talk with Olian had been troubling, to say the least. Either there really was a Summoner on the loose, or a mage was in the beginning stages of a nervous breakdown. Neither one was particularly good. He took off down the street headed not for Ivory Tower, but for Sarrus. Whatever was happening it was Mage's Guild business, and they would be the ones to deal with it.

 

The End

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