The Lone Maiden's TavernMature

Frederick sat on one side of a simple pine table, his right hand bandaged and his spectacles firmly on his face. He still dripped with rainwater and despite the towel that sat beside his hand, he refused to touch it.

He had been buried in the rain, knee deep in the purple ooze as he frantically searched for the boy. The officers had left him alone for the most part, sending others to aid in the explosion of Nathaniel Hall. One kept watch near the gruesome site of the battle, occasionally asking if Frederick needed any help. He ignored him, scooping aside more of the ooze frantically. He felt something stiff and immediately gripped it, scraping away to find the rest of the dead police officer.

He gently pulled the rest of the body aside and let the rain water wash him clean as he went back to digging, his arms and legs soaked in the purple liquid. His fingers felt something round and realized it was a head. He blindly found the body's shoulders and hauled it out, praying against all odds that there may be a sign of life.

The body of his patient lay in his arms, his eyes devoid of irises and pupils. His skin was a pale white, his lips and fingertips a violent shade of blue. Even when a new EMS crew arrived at the scene, Frederick hadn't moved, kneeling in the purple ooze with the boy in his lap as his stoic expression remained.

Frederick's mind was brought back to the present when he heard the glass door open, a trimmed sergeant stepping into the room and placing his cap on the table.

His short black hair was combed back with a part near his right ear, his moustache sculpted underneath his pointed, short nose. He presented himself in a stiff manner, his outfit clean and orderly.

"Good evening, Mr. Lionhart."

"Mm." He laconically replied.

"I'm Sergeant Cameron. I have been informed of the incident that occurred earlier today at The Medical Academy."

The corner of Frederick's lip pulled back.

"I understand things may be painful for you at the moment, but we need your cooperation to get to the bottom of this." Cameron took a seat across from Frederick, folding his gloved hands in front of him, "Can you tell us the condition of your patient?"

"He was on the mend when I arrived at the Infirmary around 3 PM," Frederick started, pressing his fingers against his right temple as he looked away, "but when I examined him, I noticed his condition had taken a fall for the worse."

"Can you describe to me his symptoms?"

"His skin was cold and clammy, as well as his forehead. His body temperature was 86.4 degrees. He claimed he couldn't feel anything anymore, so his sensory nerves had been numbed somehow. He also claimed to be light headed and shivered, despite having two blankets wrapped around him."

"Was he dying?"

"I cannot say, Sergeant. He was bright and healthy when I examined him twelve hours ago."

Sergeant Cameron was busy scrawling notes, his eyes flicking between the paper and Frederick.

"What happened after you contacted the Emergency Medical Services?"

"They brought him to the Medical Coach and I saw them round the main square before I ran back to the damage at Nathaniel Hall to see how I could help. I heard screams as I approached the building and saw that the Medical Coach was overturned. I went back to try and help when Ke- a Mystic stopped me."

Sergeant Cameron looked up.

"A Mystic stopped you? Why was he near the academy?"

"I have no idea, Sergeant. He tackled me out of no where."

Cameron resumed his notes.

"I have been told a monster had emerged from the destroyed coach. Can you verify?"

"Yes." Frederick's voice faltered, "It stood roughly about thrity feet and seemed to be comprised of black smoke."

"Smoke?"

"Aye, although when attempts to subdue it were successful, it bled like any physical creature."

"Speaking of that-" Cameron pointed at Frederick with his pen, "Concerning the apprehension of the creature..."

Frederick's eyes darted back to the sergeant.

"My officers told me that the Mystic had destroyed the creature, but you showed similar talents to that of the citizen."

Frederick cradled his right hand out of sight, clearing his throat.

"Your records have probably notified you of my history with the EAF."

"Yes." Cameron checked his notes, pulling out a manila folder and flipping it open, "Frederick Alden Lionhart, Major of the Medical Division in just three months. Was discharged honorably with high honors and awarded the Golden Heart three times for outstanding medical service in times of danger."

Frederick let a soft sigh escape, combing back his bangs.

"However, it indicates you were MIA for almost a year during the war. It states that when you returned, you wore the garments of your captors and your eyes had changed to liken those of the Mystics."

"You have no idea what they did to me." Frederick hissed, his hand tensing into a fist as he pressed his knuckles against his forehead.

"You seem hesitant to talk of such things, although your evaluation stated you had contracted Shell Shock, but refused treatment-"

"What happened to me cannot be treated, Sergeant Cameron." Frederick replied curtly, bringing his hand down quietly.

"Regardless of this fact, Mr. Lionhart, my superiors have asked me to follow protocol." Sergeant Cameron reached into his back pocket, placing a single bronze band inbetween himself and Frederick.

He stared at the simple bronze ring, his eyes narrowing.

"This is an insult." He muttered, looking up into the Sergeant's eyes, "The Mystic and I risked our lives to protect your men, and they try to enforce this law upon me? I am not a Mystic."

"You can speak Ur'Kan fluently, however."

"I learned it through my months in captivity-!"

"Even so, law dictates that any possessing Heathen Arts must be restrained and monitored." Cameron's voice grew stronger to overbear Frederick's.

Frederick slammed his fist on the table, the wristband clattering slightly.

"I am an Elbanian! I have saved many lives through the processes of medicine and science! I do not believe in this superstitious activity nor use it willingly-!"

"You did against the creature." Cameron replied calmly, his eyes locked with Frederick's.

Frederick slumped back in his chair, cradling his face as he gathered his thoughts.

"This will not be put on your record, nor will this be released to the public. I would maintain that if you wish not for people to make judgments, that you do your best to conceal it. We will remove the band once this matter has been cleared, and unless you can give us any further information in aiding this case, you are free to leave."

Frederick pulled his hands down over his tired features, taking another look at the bracelet. Cameron sat patiently, watching him.

With resignation, he thrust his right arm out, covering his face with his left hand. Sergeant Cameron slipped the wristband on, the metal stretching out to accommodate his large hand before shrinking and hugging to his wrist without cutting off circulation. The runes etched in the metal glowed a bright white, and instantly, Frederick felt as if the band was gripping his heart rather than his wrist.

"Good evening, Mr. Lionhart."

Cameron stood up, opening the door for Frederick. He stormed out, snatching up his rain cloak and swinging it over his shoulders as he entered into the waterfalls of dark rain outside the police station.

He lifted his hand, a steam coach screeching to a halt as the conductor leaned over.

"Where to, sir?"

"Johnston and Pine, 32 West." Frederick mumbled dejectedly as he clambered into the coach.

"Pardon?"

"32 West Johnston and Pine!" he snapped back before slamming the coach door shut.

The conductor shrugged and cranked up the steam engine, the machine puttering and spewing vapor before chugging into the night.

Frederick rolled back his sleeve, eyeing the bangle with weary contempt as his fingers traced the runes. Noticing for the first time, he touched near his eyes and noticed the pain was gone. He lifted up his spectacles and looked into the glass window of his coach door, watching for a passing lamplight to illuminate his face.

The copper veins in his eyes had vanished, leaving dull rims in their place and his pupils untouched. He chewed on the inside of his cheek gently, sinking back into his seat as he mulled over his thoughts. His eyes suddenly widened and he yanked on the steam whistle cable, the coach coming to a halt.

"Problem, sir?" The conductor shouted over the heavy rainfall.

"Change destination." Frederick commanded.

"Where to, sir?"

Frederick thought for a moment, turning over Kelstrin's message in his head.

" ‘Where the seaman searches for his boat'..."

"Ah! "The Lady and the Caravel". Be in a pub mood then, sir? Popular song by the Lone Maiden's Tavern-"

"Take me there! Get me to the tavern in less than ten minutes, I'll give you an extra 20 phéns!"

"Aye, sir!" the conductor replied enthusiastically, the steam engine bolting into motion as they made their way into the sobbing night.

Frederick had arrived in the downtown section of Silestra near the docks, the Bane River spackled with heavy rainfall as boats bobbed nervously. Few people were in the streets, some with newspapers over their heads as they dodged the rain and passing coaches. A few barrel fires were tucked away down suspicious allies, people huddling close for warmth and to protect the flames from rain.

The Lone Maiden's Tavern was the only thing showing life down the narrow stretch of Harbor Street, its painted sign faded from time and elements. The majority of the building stood on docks, the wooden and steel foundations supported by the bottom of the river so boats could be tied up beside its welcoming entrance.

Frederick emerged from the coach, passing four purple bills to the conductor before approaching the tavern. He held his rain cloak close, his satchel hidden underneath the folds as he could hear the rancorous rabble within. He stepped in cautiously, looking around at the drunken mayhem, but it was not as bad as the bars he had seen during his travels in the war.

In a corner of the dusky lit tavern, a bunch of drunks were singing out of key as another played a badly tuned piano. The bar was lined up with customers, some chatting with the bartender while others talked to each other. Long tables were disorderly lined, tall glasses of various ales littered among plates of half finished food as a heavy air of Funnelleaf smoke hung like a ghostly fog.

"What kin I getcha, mate?" called the bartender, waving Frederick over.

He approached, his face pale from inhaling the pungent odor of smoke. Even as a doctor, he couldn't get over the smell of burnt Funnelleaf.

"Nothing for me, barkeep, but I'm looking for someone."

"Funny-eyed, eh? Take yer pick of em!" The bartender gestured towards an array of scantily clad women slathered in more make up than necessary, grinning.

"Not exactly. He's about my height, long brown hair, his eyes-"

He suddenly felt a hand gently slide into his, fingers clasping gently as someone whispered in his ear.

"{Follow me.}"

The bartender laughed and shook his head, polishing another beer mug clean and returning to his customers as Frederick turned around. One of the promiscuous women had approached him, a purple veil covering her lower face and deep violet eyes flickering with a dangerous lust.

"{Who are you?}" Frederick asked quietly, his question nearly drowned by the commotion of the tavern.

She said nothing but instead led him by the hand and went up the staircase to find a vacant room. Some of the other ladies sidled up against Frederick, one slinging her leg on Frederick's hip and causing him to flush profusely.

"Madam, please!"

She scoffed and laughed, returning to her friends as they all gathered and snickered. The woman took him to the end of the hall, casually pulling Frederick in before closing the door and locking it.

"{Where is he?}" Frederick asked, caught off guard as the woman wrapped her arms around his neck and leaned in.

"{Really? I had thought this was one of my weaker transformations.}" replied the Mystic, pulling the veil away to reveal the rest of her face.

Frederick was taken aback, a mix of shock and confusion passing over his features for a second before he collected himself.

"{Dammit, Kelstrin! Be serious!}" He hissed, growing more irritated as his acquaintance giggled.

Frederick shoved him off, adjusting his collar.

"{You enjoy this too much sometimes.}"

Kelstrin grinned and shed most of his outfit, walking over to the four-poster bed where different garments lay. The bleak moonlight that could make it through the curtains of rain reflected the slender curve of his chest, turning to face him as his body changed and rearranged his face.

"{Oh come on, Frederico, I was only such on the outside.}"

"{Stop! I don't need to know how, why or to what end.}"

Kelstrin chuckled softly and threw on a simple shirt, pulling his head through the collar. Looking to Frederick once more, Kelstrin lost his impish charm and instead became somber.

"{I'm sorry about what happened today.}"

Frederick's hands tensed.

"{Had I known sooner, I may have been able to prevent it. But even with what I've gathered, I'm not sure it's enough.}"

"{Tell me already!}" Frederick snapped, wringing out his ponytail.

Kelstrin sighed and shook his hair loose, the golden rims in his eyes catching the faint moonlight.

"{It started five years ago, when the fighting was finally over. Many of us were forced to relocate-}" The words felt like poison in his mouth, his brows creasing, "{including the Main Domicile. Those who refused to leave were slaughtered.}"

Frederick pulled up a chair near the bed that Kelstrin leaned against, hunching over as he folded his hands.

"{I had managed to escape their grasp and fled with some others to the farthest reaches of Caelhün, living on he fringe of starvation. It was then we began to notice something was wrong, something was dwindling.}"

"{Couldn't possibly be the roots and timber you had for sustenance.}" Frederick replied sarcastically.

Kelstrin shot him a dark look, the rims of his eyes glowing.

"{Don't mock what you don't understand, Frederico. I'm trying to help you-}"

"{A patient of mine died today because of you!}"

"{Why don't you think?! Had I not come by sooner, you'd be dead for the second time!}"

Frederick choked on his words, a blank expression overcoming him. Kelstrin got off the bed, looking into Frederick's eyes and looking equally confused. His eyes shifted downwards, and immediately grabbed Frederick's wrist. He yanked the sleeve back to see the band on his arm, almost breaking into tears.

"{What have they done to you?}" he whispered.

"{Given my eyes back, for one.}"

Kelstrin looked up, his eyes now watering as his brows arched upwards.

"{You can't tell me this doesn't hurt?}"

Frederick faltered. Kelstrin knelt down before Frederick, closing his eyes as he outstretched his hand over Frederick's wrist.

"{What're you-}"

"{Hush.}" Kelstrin cut him off, the outline of his hand glowing a faint green.

The runes on the wristband began to flicker and glow in turn, fading from white to a violent red as Frederick winced in pain. Kelstrin quickly removed a hairpin from his bangs, pricking his pointer finger and forcing a steady drop of blood down his fingertip before resuming his chant. It dripped against the runes, causing them to flare a brilliant green as it lit up the room.

A sudden heavy bang on the door disturbed the process, angry voices hollering outside.

"Sheíré!" gasped Kelstrin, quickly standing.

The door was furiously being pounded, the wood creaking loudly under the pressure of multiple fists.

"{It's the authorities! They must have traced you!}" Frederick gripped the back of his head, cursing to himself.

Kelstrin wasted no time as he cut open his palm, letting the blood drip freely as he rubbed his hands together.

"{Frederico, you must get out of the city! This is not natural rain!}" Systematic pounding was now being applied to the door, the lock beginning to lose strength in holding back the charges.

"{What do you mean?!}"

"{This rain wasn't caused by natural forces. Remember the explosion at your academy? The boy, the purple ooze, everything, it's something manmade. Something the Gears have constructed!}"

The door began to bleed light through the broken hinges, the dark uniforms of officers showing in the silhouettes.

"{What?! What is it!?}"

"{I don't know!}" Kelstrin took his bloodied fingers and smeared lines across his cheeks, a ring of symbols appearing at his feet, "{Get out of Silestra before the same happens to you!}"

As the door smashed down into splintered ruins, Kelstrin's form changed into a small winged beast, crashing through the window as it flew off into the cover of dark night and rain.

Frederick was left standing in the abandoned room, his right wrist aching as officers stepped in, large, black discuses resting in their open palms as the white symbols blazed across the top.

"Alright, Mystic, we're not fooled by your appearance!"

"Mystic?!" Frederick asked, incredulous.

"Our Lore Stones indicate sources of Heathen Arts, and as you're the only one standing here."

"The other Mystic was the one who-"

"Don't give me those lies! Arrest him!"

Two of the officers stepped over the shattered door, each taking a strong grip on one of Frederick's arms and escorting him out.

"The is ridiculous!" he shouted, trying to struggle, "First you band me then you accuse me of using Heathen Arts?!"

"Then a test, if you will." The constable leading the charge approached Frederick, pulling out a slip of parchment.

Frederick stood up straight, his gaze maintained on the constable as he unfolded the paper.

"Can you read this?"

Frederick looked down to see a small ring of symbols and a lopsided eye spinning rapidly. He screamed, his eyes burning with agony as the piece of parchment exploded in a spire of green flame.

"Take him away." Said the constable, watching them drag Frederick's writhing body out of the tavern as he howled.

The End

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