Pentra’s morgue was situated along the western cliff face of the gorge and sat directly below the Pentrin Arch hundreds of meters above. Unlike most of the buildings along the cliff the mortuary was built into the actual cliff face and appeared as a recess amid the line of houses.
“You sure it will be open at this hour?” Legin asked as Vhindr led the way down the road.
“Of course,” Vhindr replied, “The dead do not wait for the living to go to work every morning.”
Legin laughed slightly at that, and he even noticed that Pip cracked a smile.
“Besides the Magi working here is likely not sleeping,” added Vhindr.
“You know them?” Legin asked with surprise, and Vhindr shrugged.
“I cannot say, this is the first time I have been here, but I have likely heard of which ever Magi works at this place,” Vhindr said, “But I was implying that most Magi work late into the nights, staying off sleep to further their research. A odd notion really, considering the brain needs rest for it to functions at its full capacity.”
“Don’t they ever sleep?” Pip yawned loudly.
“I know what you mean, Pip,” Legin stretched and nodded, “I could go for a decent nap right about now.”
The pale green glow of the crystal lights framing the door of the morgue reached mysteriously across the dark and misty streets. It was a very still night, with no breeze on the air to shift the mist and the green glow of the crystals caused a shiver to run down Legin’s spine. Cautiously Legin glanced over his shoulder and to the dark shadows about the buildings and he felt that they were being watched for some reason.
Vhindr did not seem to feel the same and Legin followed as the man led the way confidently through the unlocked door of the morgue and into a dimly lit hallway. Immediately Legin’s eyes were drawn to the eight foot ebonite statues that lined the hall and depicting skeletal structures. Turning his gaze from the strange statues he looked to the far end of the corridor where a single stone desk sat with two closed doors on either side. At the desk sat a man leaning back in his chair with his feet up and his loud snores echoing around the room.
“Magi work late into the night, right Vhindr,” Legin snickered, drawing a laugh from Pip and smile from Vhindr.
As they came to a stop before the ebonite desk Vhindr loudly cleared his throat, causing the sleeping man to stir but not wake.
“Excuse me,” Vhindr said as he cleared his throat again.
Still the man did not wake.
“Hey, wake up,” Legin shouted and banged his hand on the desk top.
The man jumped awake with a start and shot to attention in his chair, his bleary eyes looking blankly at them.
“Visitors?” the man exclaimed suddenly and a smile came to his face, “I was about to become angry at being awoken so rudely. But not now that we have company. Greetings friends, welcome to the Necropolis, I am Magi Hradin Horrel. How can I assist?”
“I am Vhindr Varrintine, well met,” Vhindr nodded, “I need to look through your archives.”
“Not Vhindr Varrintine the detective?” Magi Horrel beamed and clapped his hands, “Well this is turning out to be an interesting evening. And your compan-”
“Not important,” Vhindr cut in, “The Achieves, if you will.”
“No need to be rude, Vhindr,” Legin huffed and crossed his arms across his chest.
“Don’t worry about it bro, we’re not important,” Pip remarked sarcastically as he frowned.
“Very well, very well,” Magi Horrel nodded and moved to the door on the left side of the desk.
“Where does the other door lead?” Legin asked curiously as he followed Vhindr and the Magi.
“To the land of the dead, mister Not Important,” Horrel smiled mysteriously and moved through the door into the dark room.
As Legin entered light blue crystals on the walls began to glow softly and cast light upon the rows upon rows of book shelves which stretched far into the low roofed cavern. Stacked in meticulous order upon the shelves were thousands of books and files. But it was not a dusty place, Legin noticed, and there was an unnatural cleanliness to the place.
“Not a cobweb to be seen,” Pip remarked, voicing Legin’s thoughts.
“And it’s so cold in here,” Legin suddenly shivered, “What’s with that?”
“Cool dry air retards the degradation of the parchment,” Magi Horrel explained as he stopped at the nearest bookshelf and turned to his guests, “Now, what are you looking for in particular?”
“A medical report on a dead woman,” Vhindr replied seriously, “Washed upon the shore roughly twenty-three years ago.”
“How interesting,” Horrel laughed as he begun along the bookshelf and the stone wall, “What was her name?”
“No name,” Vhindr replied as he, Legin and Pip followed, “She was young and well nourished, but was found in rotting clothes. Plus she had been pregnant. A guardsman had cut the still alive child out.”
“Yes,” the Magi exclaimed, “I remember that case. A rather strange one to be honest. Did you know there have been several other similar and more recent cases?”
“I did,” Vhindr nodded.
The Magi made a sudden left turn and continued on passed the row of shelves which stretched far into the dimness.
Legin followed quietly as he pretended to gaze down the rows as he listened intently to what the Magi was saying about his birth mother.
“Did you perform the investigation upon the first woman yourself?” Vhindr asked curiously.
“How old do you think I am?” the Magi asked back, “It was my Master who did the investigations while I watched intently.”
“What do you remember of his findings?” Vhindr inquired as the Magi made a right turn.
“Hardly anything,” Horrel shrugged, “That’s why we write it down, you see?”
“So you remember the case, and where the file is, but not what was written,” Vhindr remarked dryly and shook his head.
“We wrote it down so we did not have to remember, you see,” Magi Horrel laughed back, seemingly missing Vhindr’s condescension.
“Now, here we are,” Horrel said as he came to a stop at an unremarkable spot and reached for the shelf. “Wait. That’s not right, where is it?”
The Magi suddenly grabbed at the shelf and at the void between two files. Muttering dozens of quiet curses the man flicked through the files on either side of the gap before his sighed irritably and put his hands on his hips.
“Someone has been messing about with my filing, damn it,” Horrel said angrily, “It’s not here.”
“You sure this is the spot?” Legin asked skeptically.
“Of course I am sure,” the Magi snapped back, “I know where every file is in here.”
Vhindr sighed loudly and ran a hand over his face before shaking his head slightly.
“What of the similar cases around the same time?” asked Vhindr, though he did not seem confident.
“Yes, this way,” Magi Horrel mumbled as he slid between Legin and Vhindr and headed back the way they had come.
“This is a waste of time,” Pip remarked, “I could be sleeping right now.”
“Or eating,” Legin added with a laugh as he trailed after Vhindr.
Half a minute later the Magi stopped at another spot along the shelf before he cried out in despair.
“No this one is gone too,” Horrel exclaimed as he grabbed at the empty spot on the shelf, “We must have gremlins in the place or something. I should hire a Helwyr to sort it out. You know these catacombs move into some natural caves out the back, who can say what is down there.”
Vhindr laughed tiredly, “Save your money. They were stolen.”
“I did think it rather specific of gremlins to take these particular files,” Magi Horrel nodded, “But still, who would want to steal them?”
“Someone who is trying to stop my investigations,” Vhindr remarked with a slight smile, “What kind of security do you have here?”
“Security?” Horrel laughed, “This is a Necropolis, who would want to steal the dead? And it’s not like we are trying to keep anyone in or out.”
“But Vhindr, I thought you were investigating your friends abduction,” Legin remarked in confusion, “What has that got to do with women washing up on the beach?”
“Because they are connected,” Vhindr replied, still smiling, “Come, I know where we are to head next.”
Vhindr swiftly moved passed the Magi, causing Legin and Pip to hurry to catch up with him.
“If you find my files let me know,” Magi Horrel called after them, “And don’t forget to close the door on the way out, can’t be letting any of the dead to escape now.”
The sound of the Magi cackling at his own joke followed after Legin through the darkness and they moved quickly passed the book shelves and back into the entry hall.
“So weird,” Legin muttered as he glanced up at the smiling black skeletons, their hollow eyes staring down at him.
Outside the mist still hung heavily in the air and a startled bat flapped away on its leathery wings as they rushed from the door. The veins of Fog through the mist were much brighter now, reflecting through the cloud and making the orange street lanterns somewhat superfluous.
“That smell.” Pip crunched up his nose.
“I know, what is that?” Legin agreed and covered his nose. “Some sickly sweet stench of death.”
“We were just in a morgue, I guess.” Pip replied and sneezed.
“I suppose you are right Pip.” Legin said, “I didn’t smell the dead bodies whilst I was in there though. Do you smell it too Vhindr?”
“Yes,” Vhidnr mumbled and he sniffed the air, “And I have smelt it before, but where …”
The man’s voice trailed away and he suddenly strode off through the dark mist causing Legin and Pip to rush to catch up.
“Where are we going?” Legin asked as he looked up at the shadowy rooftops.
“Yes, exactly,” Vhindr was quickly reply.
“What?” Legin looked to Pip, who shrugged in response.
Legin returned the shrug and continued to follow Vhindr quietly as the man strode quickly through the city streets.
As they made their way along the twisting cobblestone streets that turned up the gorge towards the city gates, Legin continuously began to feel as if they were being watched, even followed. Irritably he glanced over his shoulder only to see the quiet street and the heavy shadows. Shaking his head slightly Legin tried to forget about it, but try as he might he could not shake the nagging sensation at the back of his mind, nor rid his nose of that smell. Focusing on his hearing Legin tried to pick up the sounds of footsteps through the darkness, but there was nothing.
“Something wrong, bro?” Pip asked quietly as they reached the main gate and turned down the path towards the Pentrin Arch.
“Don’t know,” replied Legin seriously as he glanced over his shoulder again and rubbed his nose, “I feel like we are being followed.”
“You think maybe Lyrndl’s people might have seen us in the west end?” Pip inquired with a worried expression.
“Don’t know,” Legin said again and shook his head.
By now they had passed the guard’s barracks and moved to the entrance to the Arch. The guard at the check station recognised Vhindr and let him through along with Legin and Pip.
“If we are being followed, don’t let them through alright,” Legin said to the guard as he passed and smiled.
“Sure m’Lord,” the guard said absently as he went back to his duty.
Pip laughed as they hurried to keep up with Vhindr’s long strides.
“That guy must have been blind to call you Lord,” Pip snickered, drawing a frown from Legin.
“What are you on about?” Legin was quick to say, “I look Lordly enough.”
Pip snorted and shook his head causing Legin to punch his friend in the arm.
“I look more like a Lord than you do,” Legin said irritably.
“He actually probably thought we were Vhindr’s servants,” Pip laughed and Legin joined in.
Up along the Pentrin Arch the night was clearer and only the top of the mist crawled over the edges of the Arch and around the base of the buildings. Over head the sky was clear and thousands of stars twinkled in the inky blackness of the sky. The twin moons were not present this night and the air was fresh with a cool bite to it.
Legin had been along the Pentrin Arch before, on many occasion even, but on every one of those he had been slinking in the shadows and climbing across the roof tops as he found the right place to rob. This time he was quite enjoying the fact that he was walking so openly along the rich section of the city where many more guards patrolled and did not give him and his company a seconds thought.
Passing by a large building Vhindr made a turn down a short path and to the last building along the line. This particular building, although white washed like the rest and having a few painting on the outside, was built like a tower where the other houses stayed to the customary square design.
“This must be the home of some Magi,” Legin remarked with a laugh.
“What is it with Magi and towers?” Pip shook his head.
Legin followed Vhindr up the short stairs and banged loudly upon the door.
“It’s quite late, perhaps …” Legin began, but his voice trailed away as the door swung quietly inwards.
Cautiously Legin followed Vhindr inside and as the crystal lights automatically began to glow he scratched his head in confusion.
“Why is the place empty?” Legin asked as Vhindr slowly walked into the large room which had a spiralling stair case to the right.
“Is it supposed to be empty?” Pip asked and Legin shrugged. “I can still smell that stench too.”
Turning to Vhindr Legin rnodded as he watched the man gaze down at something in his hand.
“Damn it,” Vhindr sudden shouted angrily and threw what he was holding to the ground.
Giving Pip a curious glance Legin moved over to pick up the small object. Confusion filled his mind as he reached down and picked up the scrimshaw pendant which hung at the end of a broken chain. The white bone was beautifully carved in the design of a star, its points sharp to touch. With a perplexed look upon his face Legin turned back to Vhindr who was now sitting at the base of the stairs.
“What’s this?” asked Legin as he walked over and sat down next to Vhindr.
“Fay Mareen’s necklace,” Vhindr replied softly as he starred at the tiled floor.
“She was the most recent dead girl?” Legin asked and Vhindr nodded.
“She was like the others?” inquired Legin, “Recently pregnant and looked like she was held prisoner for some time?”
Again Vhindr nodded.
“That’s weird,” Pip remarked.
“Yeah,” agreed Legin, “Why would her captors let her continue to wear this? The points are really quite sharp. That’s a disaster just waiting to happen.”
Vhindr smirked sadly and shook his head.
“Even you can see it,” Vhindr said slowly, “It is so obvious and yet it took me ages to realise it. And even after so many indications. I am so stupid, and my stupidity has very likely killed Arell and caused me to lose my chance of catching the murderer.”
“Wait,” Legin said and gave Vhindr an indignant look, “What do you mean even I can see it?”
Vhindr laughed slightly before he ran his hands over his face.
“Magi Stinfry has out played me it would seem,” Vhindr said dully.
“Who?” asked Legin.
“The former owner of this tower, Magi Siggr Stinfry,” Vhindr explained, “For indeed it is he who has been behind these murders right from the beginning. But as to why I do not understand. And why kidnap Arell? It makes no sense. Even if she was coming close to discovering it was him, there was no need to abduct her.”
A sudden realisation came to Vhindr and he sighed heavily, “Of course, Arell is just another victim. I doubt we will ever find her body though.”
Vhindr dropped his head to his hands and Legin glanced awkwardly to Pip who simply shrugged.
“Come on, don’t give up yet Vhindr,” Legin tried to sound cheerful, “You are the greatest detective in all the realms, no one outsmarts you. Remember that case you were following in Sparren at the brothel “The Diamond in the Rough”? That was a great story I remember reading it. The bad guy had seemed to have gotten away but you persevered and got him in the end.”
Vhindr sighed and shook his head, “It is different this time. Stinfry has gone, he has covered his tracks and he is gone. There will be no clues in this place to suggest where he has run off to and all Arell’s investigations and previous reports have gone with him. It is over. Arell will die, Stinfry will continue, and there is nothing to be done about it.”
Legin did not know what to say in response, he wanted to be positive and try and cheer Vhindr up, but he had no idea what to say, so he simply looked back to the pendant in his hands.
“What about Chilldeep?” Pip spoke up.
A wide smile came to Legin’s face, “Pip’s right,” Leign exclaimed and grabbed Vhindr around the shoulders excitedly. “Chilldeep Prison.”
Vhindr turned a blank expression towards Legin.
“Chilldeep,” Legin said again with a smile.
“What?” Vhindr shook his head.
“You said Arell was looking into it,” Legin explained, “So if we follow what she was investigating then we could get ourselves kidnapped as well.”
“That makes no sense,” Vhindr stated.
“Sure it does,” Legin smiled back.
“But Stinfy is not-” Vhindr began before he cut himself off and sighed.
“Yeah, good thinking Pip,” Legin laughed as he got to his feet, “We will follow what Arell was doing and that will force this Stinfry person to try and get rid of us like he did Arell, and then we’ll get him good.”
Pip nodded and laughed in agreement, “I always was the brains of our partnership.”
“Whatever,” Legin dismissed the jape, “Hey did you know Pip, you can see the ruins of what’s left of Gornl’s capitol from the Chilldeep. What was it called? Braydoss?”
“Yeah, that’s right,” Pip nodded.
“So what do you say Vhindr?” Legin asked, turning back to the man, “Shall we go to Chilldeep?”
Vhindr did not seem to be listening as he rubbed the stubble on his chin and stared off to the side.
“Still with us Vhindr” Legin asked louder, “Going to Chilldeep, yeah?”
Vhindr looked back to Legin and slight smile came to his face.
“That actually might not be a bad idea,” nodded Vhindr as he got to his feet. “Come, we can organise to go on the morning ferry with the guards.”
“Genius,” Legin smiled as he slapped Pip on the shoulder and followed Vhindr from the tower.
A cool wind greeted Legin as he moved from the tower and cheerfully he looked to the starry sky above the rooftops.
“What in the Abyss is that?” Legin exclaimed as a large shadow took off from the rooftop.
Both Vhindr and Pip looked up in surprise as the sound of leathery winds flapped off into the night.
“It was huge. What kind of beast was that?” Legin exclaimed and looked to his companions.
“A giant bat or something,” Pip shook his head and shivered, “I’m glad it didn’t attack whatever it was.”
“Could you tell what it was, Vhindr?” Legin asked seriously.
Vhindr shook his head gravely, a pensive look upon his face, “Come on,” Vhindr decided and motioned for Legin and Pip to follow.
“I can still smell that stench.” Legin grumbled and snorted as he followed.