Year 3603, the Fifth Age, the eighty-ninth day of Autumn
Mōrgul Cats. I do not know why I have never given the Mōrgul much consideration. After all they are very similar to the Yineth in their make-up. Applying the theory of the Yineth to the Mōrgul it is extremely similar. The Mōrgul seem as if they were created by combining the essence of humans with that of alley cats, like the Yineth were created by combining the essence of humans with rabbits. But there is one clear difference between the two races, and that is that the Mōrgul are both male and female, where Yineth are all female. This poses the question as to why the Yineth are all female. A question I believe I know the answer to.
I am glad that I am making this trek to the Sect of Artāre in the forest of Vhasden on the south side of the Morrow Plains where the Mōrgul Cats roam. This insight has given me much to think about and to add to my research.
-My Blessed Life by Magi Siggr Stinfry
Year 3630, the Fifth Age, the twenty-eighth day of Summer
Legin was whistling a happy tune as he and Pip jumped the north-western wall into the West Quarter. These three foot stone walls were built to clearly mark out the area of each Quarter, built by the inmates a long time ago.
Still whistling Legin walked along the main road of the West Quarter as it twisted and turned in between the chaotically built houses. The area had once been the main township of Pine Vale before the prison was constructed. Over the many years the inmates had continued to build on top of the previous houses resulting in many poorly shaped building reaching into the sky, some as tall as five stories and joining in archways over the narrow roads.
“How old do you reckon this prison is Pip?” Legin asked absently as he gazed at the tall houses.
“Well, if I remember my history correctly,” Pip began thoughtfully, “The prison walls were conjured early in this Age, around the year 2100. So it’s over millennia old.”
“Thanks for the history lesson Pip,” Legin remarked dryly.
“Would you prefer I just said really really old?” quipped Pip with a smile.
“You know, I have always wondered,” Legin replied, “Has anyone ever been born in here? I mean, what happens if one of the whores becomes pregnant?”
“Do you actually want a reply?” Pip asked with a laugh, “Or would some vague response do?”
Legin laughed as well, “An actual response, if you would please professor.”
“The brothel is actually fairly recent,” Pip replied, “Only developed in the last century or so, and as far as I know there have never been any kids. Guess the guards just give them an abortion if it happens. But I do know a story about this one time, several decades ago, where the then Commander of the prison fell in love with one of the whores, had a couple of kids and everything. They were all set to get married so the Commander got an official pardon for whore. But as soon as she had the pardon in her hands she killed the commander and the two kids before running off.”
“That’s a lovely story, thank you Pip,” Legin remarked sarcastically.
“I thought it was quite tragic actually,” Pip shrugged, apparently missing Legin’s sarcasm.
“Did Lilly tell you that story?” asked Legin.
Pip shook his head, “No, I can’t remember where I heard it actually.”
“Probably nonsense then,” said Legin and Pip shrugged and nodded his head.
The West Quarter was busy as always this morning and prisoners were going about the shops looking at items and buying food, most barely affording enough to get by. But fortunately for them, most of the inmates helped each other out in tough situations, although they always expected something in return.
Legin disliked the West Quarter, it was too cramped and oppressing, and the many tall buildings leered over the top of the streets, some seeming as if they would fall at any moment. It was also always crowed in the streets with this Quarter being where all the shops were located and where the outside merchants occasional came to trade. Of all the Quarters Legin had always been partial to the North, and at one point considered trying to become the Northern Faction Leader, but Vythe had shown him a better option.
Filtering through the crowds Legin and Pip eventually came to their destination and Legin confidently pushed his way through the doors of the brothel. Inside a few people mingled around, a few guardsmen lent on the red columns that held up the walkway of the second floor and a bored looking woman sat at the greeting desk at the centre of the open room. The smell of sweet incense filled Legin’s sense as he walked up to the desk and smiled at the woman.
“Legin,” the whore greeted him with a smile, “You’re earlier than expected.”
“I’m a punctual kind of guy,” Legin smiled back and casually lent on the desk.
“I’ll let Tressel know you are here,” the whore said as she stood up and departed the entrance hall through a side door.
“You sure you want to hang around Pip?” Legin asked with a sigh, “I bet you this will boring.”
“Yep,” Pip remarked distractedly as he looked around to the staircase which swept up to the second floor and to the several other doors on the bottom floor which led out of the entrance hall.
Just then one of those doors opened and a short whore walked out and into the dim light.
“Hey, Lilly,” Pip called out and moved over to greet her.
“Right, I see,” Legin smirked and shook his head.
“You can handle Tressel by yourself, right Legin?” Pip called over to him.
“Sure, you two go and have fun,” Legin replied with a smile.
“Legin,” the whore who had gone to see Tressel called out to him from the side door, “You can come through now.”
“I’ll talk to you later, Pip,” Legin waved to his friend who gave him only a slight nod in return.
“Go right in,” the whore said with an odd expression as Legin slid passed her and into the room.
As the whore closed the door behind him Legin quickly glanced about to the suggestive paintings on the walls, the incense burning on a small desk, the couple of plants in the corner and to Tessel sitting at her desk talking softly with a gruff man.
“Borris,” Legin greeted the man, “I didn’t expect to see you down here, I’m surprised Aurora sent you.”
“I hate the North,” Borris grunted in reply before nodding to Tressel and leaving.
“I always have great conversations with him,” Legin remarked as the man left the room.
Tressel laughed lightly and smiled at Legin, “Thank you for coming, Legin, I appreciate it.”
Legin shrugged as he sat in the chair in front of the desk, “Aurora said you wanted some help.”
The woman nodded, causing her brown curly hair to dance around her bare shoulders, “Things have been troublesome,” she nodded and adjusted her strapless corset gown around her small bust. “Saiross has been trying to push in on my south-western border. Thugs have been roughing up the store owners and demanding payment.”
“That’s bold,” Legin remarked.
“He is testing me out,” Tressel replied, “Seeing what I will do in response.”
“What are you doing?”
“Stamping my authority,” replied Tressel sternly, “I have sent my men to reassure the store owners that I am in charge and that if they have trouble from Saiross I will aid them.”
“So, not to be rude, what do you want me to help with?” Legin asked curiously.
Tressel smiled sweetly, “Everyone knows you are one of the best fighters in the prison. The rumor is you killed Argyle during that battle in the South Quarter. I want you to go to the south-east of the Quarter, talk with the store owners and remove Saiross’s influence there.”
“I could do that,” Legin nodded slowly, “But I won’t do it for free.”
“Aurora said that she would pay you,” Tressel gave him a perplexed look.
“She didn’t mention that to me,” Legin replied with surprise, causing the Faction Leader to narrow her pretty blue eyes.
“Are you trying play me, Legin?” asked Tressel seriously.
“I play everyone,” laughed Legin, “You and Aurora are no different.”
“So Aurora did tell you?”
“No,” Legin shook his head, “But if she is going to, than that is alright. But you see, I need some kind of collateral or assurance until she does pay me.”
“Fair enough, what kind of assurance do you want?” Tressel asked nicely as she began to play with her delicate necklace just above her cleavage.
“What do you offer?” Legin asked back.
“How about me, free of charge?” Tressel smile seductively and her eyes locked with Legin’s.
Legin returned the playful stare, a bemused expression on his face, for many minutes as he considered her offer.
“Tempting,” Legin replied honestly and jumped to his feet. “I’ll let you know my answer when I get back.”
“Where are you going?” Tressel asked with surprise as he too stood up.
“You wanted me to kick Saiross’s thugs out of your Quarter, didn’t you?” Legin gave the Faction Leader a confused expression.
“Usually an assurance is given before the agreed act,” Tressel replied her expression also confused.
A smile came to Legin’s face, “I was just playing,” Legin winked at her and headed for the door.
“Then be careful Legin,” Tressel called out him.
With a wave over his shoulder Legin left the room and moved back into the main hall. With a quick glance around he noticed that Pip was no longer around, so with a sigh Legin left the brothel and headed off towards the south-east.
It was quite a cool day despite being in the month of Summer, but Summer never really showed how harsh it could be in the northern region of Gaianaus, even less so in the Gaia Mountains. Most of the mountain peaks that could be seen above the prison walls were nearly always covered in snow and the wind was always crisp.
A shiver ran through Legin’s back as a fresh gust of wind kicked up and caused him to wobble on the roof ridge he was squatting on. With a large yawn he scratched the base of his tail and rubbed one of his eyes. For several hours now he had been talking to the shop owners along the south-eastern wall of the West Quarter and finally he managed to gather some understanding as to where the goons hired by Saiross to cause trouble were hiding out.
In the shade on another building Legin’s blue eyes, flecked with green, yellow, and pink, gazed down upon a group of buildings located along the prison wall near the edge of the Quarter. From his vantage point he could see where the building of the West Quarter suddenly stopped as they reached the dividing wall and the fairly open area beyond. He had been squatting in this position for some time now as he watched several men come and go from this housing complex. There had to be about five or six of them in there, plus likely a few more which he had not seen. But that was not Legin’s concern, he was confident of his abilities, his problem was how he was going to approach the situation.
“I could just kill them,” Legin posed to himself, “But that could create some trouble, more trouble than anyone would want. But just asking them to leave won’t work. So I guess the only real option is go in there bash-up all of them and tell them to beat it. Likely there is about eight of them in there, some with weapons no doubt.”
Legin sighed heavily and took the Anther crystal ring from his pouch, “Should I see if I can use you?”
Legin shook his head and returned the ring to his pouch, “No, don’t want to waste the Fog.”
Standing up Legin sighed again, “This is going to be interesting,” he mumbled to himself as he began to swing down to the street below.
As he walked towards the narrow two story building a thought came to Legin’s head and with a smile he climbed up to the small balcony. Hoping the rail he casually pushed through the door and into a small room where for rough individuals sat at a table.
“What up Saiross goons?” Legin greeted the stunned looking men and smiled, “Its time you lot headed back to the South Quarter.”
One of the large men at the table laughed aloud, “Are you going to make us, crazy monkey boy?”
Legin continued to smile confidently, “You better believe it.”
The leader of the group stopped laughing, “Kill him and dump his body back at the brothel.”
Suddenly a man lunged at Legin from the shadows to his side, but Legin expected the attack. With a quick snap of his leg Legin stopped the man’s lunge with a solid side kick to the gut. As quick as lightning Legin followed up with several heavy punches which dropped the man to the floorboards.
Turning his attention back to the others Legin set his feet in a fighting stance, ready to take on the fast approaching goons. The first attack came with a swipe of a short sword. Legin twisted away from the downward swipe and slipped to the back of the thug, punching him powerfully in the kidney in the process. The man fell to one knee and then to the floor as Legin blasted his elbow into the side of the man’s head.
The next goon was quickly in front Legin, his dagger poised to strike. But Legin was quicker and his back foot shot forward into the man’s knee, breaking it and causing the brute to scream. Legin could have finished the goon off then, but the other ruffians were upon him.
Legin’s feet moved quickly as he twisted and turned out of the way of the men’s blades and struck when he saw the opportunity.
He took another goon out of the fight by breaking the man’s arm, but by then a few others had come to see what the commotion was about. Now he faced off against four, all of them with weapons in hand. Taking a deep breath Legin steadied himself and quickly adjusted his special forearm guards which were ribbed with hardened steel underneath the white cotton wraps.
Still feeling confident Legin smiled at the men, “Well, come on.”
Angrily the four goons moved towards him and began attacking in measured and calculated routines. But Legin was more than capable of beating them. Again he twisted and turned away from the swords and axe, deflecting the blades with his gauntlets where need be, and striking with deadly accuracy when he saw an opening.
With a snap of his leg one brute fell to his knee clutching his groin. Another staggered back screaming as Legin struck him in the eye. Then the other two fell as Legin grabbed the wrist of one man and used his sword to block the attack from the axe wielder. With a quick front kick the axe wielder fell to the ground struggling to breath and the last goon joined him as Legin struck out with several fast punches which rendered the man unconscious.
With all enemies incapacitated Legin took a deep breath and smiled happily as he swaggered over to the door to the balcony.
“I want you all to remember this before you think about coming back to the West Quarter extorting coin from our people,” Legin said loudly and paused at the door. “So long…”
Legin’s words were blasted from him as another goon rushed from the shadows of the staircase and tackled Legin through the balcony door. The brute tried to shove him from the flimsy railing, but Legin was too agile and strong for that.
Using the goon’s momentum Legin twisted with the tackle as they both blasted through the timber railing and caused the man to hit the ground first with Legin on top of him.
Rolling off the goon Legin jumped to his feet, “That was fun,” Legin said with a laugh and looked back up to the broken balcony railing, “Was it good for you too?”
There came no reply and Legin smiled as he looked back to the goon who was groaning softly on the dirt road.
“As I was saying,” Legin said as bent down to the man, “So long churls.”
Legin laughed to himself and headed off along the road and passed the few surprised inmates. It was now mid-afternoon and he was glad to have that business over and done.
“Perhaps I shall take Tressel up on her offer,” Legin mused to himself, “I quite like her, and if Pip can do it why not me also?”
Whistling a tune again Legin continued to ponder the thought as he made his way back through the oppressive West Quarter and to the red painted building of the brothel.
Still whistling the same tune Legin pushed through the doors and passed the many bodyguards who had started to occupy the area. The whore who usually sat at the front desk was not there so Legin boldly pushed his way into Tressel’s office.
“Legin?” Tressel exclaimed as he entered, “Get out of here. Quickly run.”
Tressel’s next words were cut short as a sword stabbed out between her breasts and her legs went limp. Legin watched in horror as the sword was ripped back and Tressel slumped to her knees.
“Run,” Tressel gasped, her blue eyes rimmed with tears and she fell forward to the bloody carpet.
Legin tore his eyes away from the body and to the man holding the blood soaked sword.
“Borris?” Legin exclaimed in shock. “Why…?”
His question was cut short as Borris suddenly launched his sword at Legin. Legin’s eyes widened and he twisted out of the way of the projectile which still cut across his back and arm before thudding into the door.
Not thinking to ask the question again Legin darted back through the door and into the entrance hall where near on a dozen men now stood, weapons in their hands.
“Kill the crazy monkey,” Legin heard Borris yell from the other room.
Legin tried to smile as he clutched at his wounded arm, “He can’t mean me, gents. I’m not a monkey, or crazy.”
But the men did not seem to agree and they calmly advanced on him, confident smiles on all their faces.
“Damn,” Legin mumbled as his eyes darted about for some kind of escape.
But there was no escape, and there was no way he could defeat twelve armed men even if he was not wounded. Slowly Legin backed away from the advancing thugs, his hand slowly reaching into his pouch and slipping on the Anther crystal ring. His retreat came to a quick halt as he bumped into the desk opposite the base of the stairs.
Borris was suddenly before him then, his bloody sword back in hand diving for Legin’s chest. As quick as the wind Legin sidestepped the attack and slammed a heavy side kick into Borris’s ribs. But then another swordsman was lunging at him.
With no other options before him Legin cast a spell upon himself, even though he was still not sure if it would work. Suddenly Legin dashed forward in a flash of light, knocking aside a couple of thugs in the process. But then it was over and a sword swung for his face. In another flash of light Legin darted inside the swing and swung on top of the large man’s shoulders. Light flashed again and Legin launched himself backwards flipping in the air and sending a ball of energy into the group below. As Legin landed up on the second floor the front desk erupted in shower of splinters and knocked many of the men to the ground.
“What was that?” Legin let out a surprised laugh and he looked down upon the carnage, “Never had this kind of magicks before.”
His smile quickly vanished when all of the downed men staggered back to their feet and turned their angry faces towards him.
“After him. Kill him.” Borris shouted and all the men raced for the stairs.
But Legin was already on the move and sprinted through one of the many second floor doorways. Racing through the lavish bedroom Legin sprinted out onto the veranda and over the railing. Thinking quickly he climbed his way onto the roof tops and left his pursuers far behind.
Staying away from the main routes Legin made his way over the buildings to the west wall and quickly began his way towards the North. The buildings soon dropped away and Legin climbed his way up the steep incline of the Northern Hill. Breathing heavily he eventually rolled over the last lip and onto the plateau. The cuts on his back and arm were stinging painfully and he could feel the effects of blood loss take hold of his senses. But he had to get to Aurora and tell her what had happened, if he collapsed now Borris could deal with her like he had done Tressel.
With a growl of determination Legin got to his feet and made his uneasy way towards the Faction Building. The next thing he realised he was staggering through a side door and into the main hall where Aurora and half a dozen others looked at him in surprise. Legin stumbled to his knees and Aurora was beside him.
“Borris betrayed us,” Legin said between deep breathes, “He killed Tressel. I barely go out of the brothel alive. I had to use the Anther crystal ring.”
Aurora looked at him in shock but that surprise quickly turned to one of outrage and her blue and green eyes burned with fires.
“Legin, is there still Fog in the ring,” Aurora asked him seriously.
“Some,” Legin nodded, his wits slowly returning, “Spells worked somewhat, but I couldn’t recapture the Fog.”
“Shame,” Aurora nodded, “Give it to me.”
Legin gave her a curious look as he pulled the ring from his finger and handed it to the Yineth.
“What are you going to do?” Legin asked curiously as he got to his feet as Aurora headed for the door.
“You shall see,” the Yineth replied darkly as she walked swiftly from the house with Legin and the others following her.
It was late afternoon by now and Inüer was beginning to dip behind the western mountains, but clear light still shone across the prison. Aurora stopped walking as she came to the cliff top where Legin had climbed his way up. From this vantage point the houses of the West Quarter could be seen clearly along with the red building of the brothel.
“Are you going to cast a spell from here?” Legin asked curiously and rubbed the faintness he felt away.
“Watch,” Aurora said simply and stretched the hand on which she wore the ring. “I am Yineth, a daughter of Faylorien the Guardian of the trees and animals who was created by Dhror and Melenduil, the true Gods.”
As she spoke the Fog from the Anther crystal began to seep out and swirl around her hand and arm.
“Faylorien created the Yineth from the Fog,” Aurora continued, her voice becoming strange and filled with malice, “And I am Yineth. We may love peace, but you anger us you will know how powerful we can be.”
Legin was unsure if it something strange was happening or whether it was due to the amount of blood loss he suffered. But he could feel the earth begin to shake as if it were about to open up and swallow him.
“Borris,” Aurora growled through clenched teeth, “You betrayed my trust. You killed someone I love. So you shall feel my revenge.”
The ground was shaking violently now and Legin stumbled groggily to the ground. Looking up to Aurora he gasped, the Fog was swirling around her now and he could feel the weight of her power pushing against his chest. Suddenly the earth stopped trembling and Legin got to his feet just in time to hear something crack and to see a great portion of the West Quarter break apart as great chunks of the earth burst upwards and folded in upon itself, crushing the buildings and making the prison wall warp strangely. Legin staggered over to the cliff top beside Aurora his eyes wide in disbelief as the red building of the brothel was consumed by the ground.
A wave of faintness came over Legin again and he stubbornly tried to shake it away. But as he turned to Aurora the ground came up to swallow him also.
* * * *
“That was a nice ceremony for Fay Mareen,” Vhindr remarked and he glanced over his shoulder to the smoking pyre at the edge of the cliff top. “Your typical religious ceremony of course, but still quite moving.”
Arell nodded solemnly as she walked beside Vhindr as they made their way from the southern end of Ulteross and back through the city.
“I had always wondered why the body needs to be burned,” Vhindr said thoughtfully. “Of course there was no body this time, but still? And why even hold a ceremony if there is no body?”
“It is to release the soul and let it return to the Fog,” Arell replied seriously.
“I know what the priests of The Five teach their followers,” Vhindr was quick to reply, “But it still does not make sense. The body will decompose eventually and release the soul that way. Even that does not make sense; if the Fog is made up of souls then why do we use it for magicks?”
“The Five were born from the Fog,” Arell shrugged dismissively.
“Then why did we purge the land of Crythnin believers in the First and Fourth Age?” Vhindr asked, “The Crythnins believe that the Fog is the almighty deity in this world and The Five were born from the Fog. So are they not simply two facets of the same religion?”
“I don’t know,” Arell shrugged again.
“Surely you must have an opinion?” Vhindr persisted, turning a curious eye to his companion.
“I don’t want to talk about religion, or beliefs,” Arell was quick to reply.
“Fair enough,” Vhindr conceded, “But at least you are talking to me now.”
“I am still angry with you though,” Arell glared at him.
“Don’t know why,” Vhindr mumbled softly.
“What did you say?”
“Nothing,” Vhindr replied quickly, “Just talking to myself.”
Arell narrowed her eyes at him, “That’s a sign of madness, you know.”
Vhindr smiled, “Already well passed that.”
Arell regarded him curiously, but said no more as they reached the market square and continued on towards the tavern.
“Best fish bait around,” called a merchant loudly as they passed by, “Come get it. Ten percent discount this day in honour of Fay Mareen’s funeral ceremony. Come get your bait. Won’t get a better deal anywhere else.”
“That bait stinks,” Arell coughed and held her nose once they had passed the stall, “What kind of bait is that?”
“Fish guts,” Vhindr shrugged as they continued to walk along.
Soon they reached the tavern and moving inside they took up their usual seat in the booth by the window.
“What’re drinking?” Travothe called from the bar when he noticed them.
“Tea, thank you Travothe,” Vhindr called back with a smile.
“Tea?” laughed the barman, “You should order something a bit stronger sometime.”
“Maybe tonight,” Vhindr smiled back and Travothe shook his head in bemusement.
“Tell me Vhindr,” Arell said seriously when he had turned back to her, “Has this investigation come to a dead end?”
Vhindr smiled slightly, “Why do you say that?”
“For the past few days we have been doing nothing,” Arell said with an exasperated sigh.
“Speak for yourself,” Vhindr replied, pretending to be indignant.
“I’m not blind,” Arell snapped, “All you have done is talk to that guard Kimbro in hope that he would have seen Fay’s lover Berron. There are no other leads here, so you cannot have been doing anything.”
Travothe then arrived with their tea, interrupting their conversation. Vhindr thanked the barman and waited for him to leave before pouring his tea and turning his attention back to Arell.
“There are times in an investigation where you need to be patient,” Vhindr replied simply, “This is one of those occasions. I have a feeling that Berron may still be in the city hiding, so obviously if I seem as if I am looking for him it will be harder to find him. The ceremony we just came from will hopefully lure the boy out and my guard friend Kimbro can tell me where Berron slinked back to.”
“What makes you think Berron is in Ulteross?” Arell asked curiously.
Vhindr shrugged as he took a sip of his tea, “A hunch, I suppose.”
“A hunch?” Arell repeated and looked at Vhindr incredulously, “Has a hunch ever paid off?”
Vhindr shrugged again before a smile came to his face, “It seems that this one has,” Vhindr said and nodded towards the door where Kimbro had just entered.
The guard spotted them quickly and strode over to the table before pulling up a chair and leaning close.
“I have some news,” Kimbro said softly, his eyes darting between Vhindr and Arell, “By the way I love your vest, Arell.”
Both Vhindr and Arell looked to the simple white shirt she wore and brown vest which had subtle patterns woven within its cotton strands.
“The news, Kimbro,” Vhindr sighed loudly.
“Can’t I take a moment to admire her clothes?” Kimbro asked back, “By the way Arell, how do you get your hair so shiny?”
“I, I’ll tell you later,” Arell stammered in surprise, “First tell us what you know, please.”
“See that is how you be polite, Vhindr,” Kimbro said authoritatively.
“I gave you money for information,” Vhindr sighed again, “Not tips on etiquette, or opinions on clothes and hair.”
“Fine,” the guard sighed, “I saw Berron. He was lingering at the back of the crowd during the ceremony, and headed off just before the end.”
“You followed him?” Vhindr was quick to ask.
“Do you need to ask?” Kimbro looked smug, “Sure did, followed him to the west of the town and to the deserted house. Want me to show you the way?”
“No, we will be fine,” Vhindr was quick to reply, “Thank you. Let us be off Arell.”
“You guys are no fun,” Kimbro huffed as Vhindr and Arell stood up and left the tavern.
By now Vhindr knew the streets of Ulteross fairly well so he was confident in his choice of path. .
“That guard is an odd one,” Arell remarked as they walked through the narrower lanes of the town.
“Indeed,” agreed Vhindr, “I am sure he plays for the other team, if you follow my inference.”
“No, surely not,” Arell laughed in surprise, “He is just effeminate most likely.”
“It does not matter,” Vhindr replied seriously, “This is the lead we have been waiting for, so keep your thoughts focused.”
Arell nodded seriously as Vhindr continued to lead the way through the town. By now it was around midday and Inüer’s heat was blistering, and many were moving indoors for their lunch time meal. There was little shade in Ulteross with only a few palm trees scattered inside the walls and offering little relief from the heat.
It was about half an hour later when they were walking through the poorer section of the town where the buildings were less cared for and the people they passed held a malicious look in their eyes.
Vhindr stopped walking and found a small amount of shade to take a breath and wipe the sweat from this face.
“This is the deserted building,” Vhindr nodded to Arell as he undid the top buttons of his sleeveless shirt and vest.
“You did know where you were going,” Arell laughed softly.
“You doubted me?” Vhindr asked in surprise.
“For a little bit, yes,” Arell replied honestly with a smile, “How should we do this?”
Vhindr ran a hand through his short black hair and smiled, “I was thinking of walking through the front door.”
With a wink to Arell Vhindr strode confidently down the street and pushed through front door of the house. With a loud creak the door shuddered inwards and he and Arell entered cautiously. Dust covered the floorboards of the bare room, all the windows were smashed, the rafters were filled with spider webs, and many holes riddled the ceiling. An old chair sat in the corner and two doorways led the way into the other areas of the building.
Vhindr slowly walked into the centre of the room, the boards creaking under his feet and some birds noisily flew out of one of the holes in the roof.
“Berron,” Vhindr called out loudly, his voice echoing about the hollow room. “My name is Vhindr Varrintine, I am the one who is investigating your Fay’s murder. I was hoping to have a word with you.”
As Vhindr stopped talking silence enveloped the house and all that could be heard was the soft moan of the gentle breeze.
“Have you come to accuse me like everyone else?” Berron called out from an unseen location.
“No,” Vhindr replied simply.
“Is there any reason why I should trust you?”
“Is there any reason why you should not?” Vhindr was quick to ask back, “Berron, I found Fay on the beach in Pentra and have come all this way to identify her and discern how she met such an untimely end. I know for a fact it was not you who killed her.”
“You could be wrong,” Berron replied as he appeared in the doorway of one of the other rooms.
Vhindr smiled slightly, “I am never wrong.”
“Who’s the woman?” Berron asked suspiciously.
Vhindr glanced over his shoulder to Arell.
“My name is Arell, and I am the Captain of the guard at Pentra,” Arell replied and smiled sweetly.
“She is helping me,” Vhindr replied dismissively.
Berron narrowed his eyes, “I thought Vhindr Varrintine worked alone?”
“I usually do.” Smiled Vhindr, “But I can’t seem to get rid of her.”
A smile seemed to come to Berron’s face then, but he quickly pushed it away.
“You wanted to ask me some questions about Fay?” Berron asked seriously and lent on the doorframe, his arms crossed before him.
“Yes,” nodded Vhindr, “But first, has it been you who has been following me?”
Berron nodded, “So you noticed.”
“May I ask why you were following me?”
Berron shrugged, “I heard you came into town, wanted to see you for myself. I have read your books.”
“Because you have been looking for Fay since her disappearance,” Vhindr stated and Berron nodded sadly, “You see, that is why I know for a fact you were not the one to kill her.”
Berron sighed heavily and scratched the back of his head as he moved into the room, but still kept his distance from Vhindr and Arell.
“We were going to get married, you know,” Berron said distantly, “She was working up the courage to ask her father if I could join them for dinner one night so we could tell them our intentions.”
“Where are your parents, Berron?” Arell asked curiously.
“My dad died when I was fifteen out on his fishing boat,” Berron shrugged, “And my mum killed herself a few years later. Took a swan drive from the cliff top. Fay helped me through the tough few years after that. We were ready to spend our lives together, then one day she just vanished without a word. No note, no nothing. That how I knew something serious had happened to her.”
“Are you sure she just did not leave you?” Vhindr asked seriously.
“No,” Berron shouted angrily, “She was not like that. We loved each other more than anything else in this world.”
“And she would have at least left a note for her parents, am I right?” Vhindr nodded with a dismissive smile.
“Yes,” Berron calmed down, “Like I said she was not the type to run off without any word.”
“And you have spent the last year or so looking for her?” Arell asked pleasantly and Berron nodded.
“So what have you discovered?” Vhindr clapped his hands together.
“Nothing,” Berron shook his head sadly.
“Nonsense,” Vhindr was quick to reply, “There cannot be nothing. By its mere definition nothing does not exist. So there always has to be something.”
Berron gave Vhindr a perplexed expression and shrugged, “I don’t know, I have almost given up.”
“Nonsense,” Vhindr said again, “You have read my books, have they taught you nothing.”
“No,” Berron snapped, “But she vanished without a trace, there was no evidence.”
“Nonsense,” Vhindr was quick to say.
“Stop saying that,” Arell sighed loudly.
“You are supposed to be on my side, Arell,” Vhindr looked unhappily at his companion.
“There was this one thought I had,” Berron spoke up, “But it probably is nonsense.”
“Nothing is nonsense,” Vhindr laughed back, “What was your thought?”
Berron gave Vhindr a curiously look before replying, “Well, you know how Helwyr are made, and how women volunteer to mother a Helwyr.”
“You said she would not leave on her own volition,” Vhindr said when Berron paused.
“She wouldn’t,” Berron was quick to reply, “And she would never volunteer to mother a Helwyr. But maybe the monks at the Sect of Artāre were not getting enough volunteers so they kidnapped her.”
“You are right, that does sound like nonsense,” Vhindr remarked dryly.
“But you just said…” Berron began irritably, but Vhindr cut him off.
“Did you investigate your suspicions further, Berron?” asked Vhindr curiously.
“Yes,” Berron nodded.
“I went into Vhasden but they wouldn’t let me into the monastery,” Berron shrugged and looked at the ground.
“Interesting,” Vhindr stroked his chin.
“Seriously Vhindr?” Arell balked, “Do you really think there is merit to the thought that monks of Artāre are kidnapping young woman and forcing them to mother a Helwry?”
“Remember how we found Fay?” Vhindr asked Arell curiously and she nodded, “She had recently given birth, and on our trek to Ulteross there were a surprising amount of young woman who had gone missing.”
“But Vhindr,” Arell shook her head in disbelief, “We are talking about a religious Sect here.”
“I know,” Vhindr nodded seriously, “Does that not make it worse?”
Arell’s mouth hung open in shock and she shook her head.
“What are you two talking about?” Berron called out curiously.
“We were simply discussing whether your suspicions maybe worth checking out,” Vhindr replied with a smile.
“Even if we do go to Vhasden, the monks will turn you away,” Berron was shaking his head.
“Then do not talk with the monks,” Vhindr replied as if it were obvious and smiled.
“So we are going to Vhasden then?” Berron asked, an excited glimmer in his eye.
“No,” Vhindr was quick to reply, “Arell and I will go to Vhasden, you will stay here.”
“No, I am coming,” Berron replied angrily, “Fay was my bride.”
“Bride to be,” Vhindr interrupted, “You are staying here. Go talk with Fay’s parents, for you need to.”
“What?” Berron balked, “No, I’m coming with you whether you like it or not. Try and stop me.”
“Just let him come, Vhindr,” Arell said quietly and Vhindr sighed loudly, “He will follow us one way or another, even if you try and force him to stay.”
“Fine,” Vhindr sighed again, “But you had better not get in my way. We leave tomorrow morning. Let’s go Arell.”
“Thank you,” Berron called out excitedly as Vhindr and Arell left the broken building.
It was still hot outside but at least the breeze had picked up and brought some refreshing winds off of the Gornl Sea. To the north the clouds had become heavier and promised the coming of a storm.
“Do you really think the Artāre Sect could be doing what Berron suspects?” Arell asked seriously as she and Vhindr walked back towards the tavern.
“We shall see,” Vhindr shrugged as he looked to his companion, “And it is the only lead we have currently.”
Arell nodded and sighed as Vhindr looked away to the north and to the gathering storm.